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Third Test: Anybody's match

India lost the wicket of Irfan Pathan while chasing 313 for victory at stumps on the penultimate day.

india Updated: Mar 22, 2006 14:54 IST

This Test has become a temptress! One of those battles it has turned out to in which both sides fancy their chance.

India would think they have a chance of scoring the required 295 on the morrow, even if that means hurting the pride of history! After all, no team has ever chased more than 164 successfully at the Wankhede.

England would trust their bowlers on a wicket from which the demons have appeared to frighten the batsmen. The ball is turning viciously, bouncing awkwardly and the surface is dry for Freddie Flintoff to start his smooth art called reverse swing!

Their own batsmen were bowled out for 191 on this pitch where Anil Kumble (4/49) bowled like a man possessed, inspiring Harbhajan Singh to extract the kind of bounce that was not seen from him for a long time.

Virender Sehwag was ill and the Indian team management sent Irfan Pathan to open with Wasim Jaffer. But James Anderson gave a big blow to the health of Indian second innings when Pathan (6) played his low full toss onto his stumps.

Matthew Hoggard was swinging away, but he almost did Wasim Jaffer (4 not out) in with the one that came back sharply. Jaffer survived, so did Kumble (8 not out), the nightwatchman.

After taking four wickets to finish England at 191, ensuring his team didn't have to chase more than 131, Kumble was defending the best way he could with the bat.

It was because of that India could finish Day Four at 18/1.

Play after tea:

Rahul Dravid gave the ball to Munaf Patel and Flintoff (50 in 145 balls, 6 fours, 1 six) hit him over mid on and on drove him to show his counterpart his changed mood after tea.

But Flintoff was soon to lose his momentum. It wasn't he who fell, but Paul Collingwood (33 in 118 balls, 3 fours) who stepped out to Harbhajan to be beaten in flight. The bowler dived as much as he could to his left, and the ball rested in his left hand.

Harbhajan raised his arms as his teammates chased him. But he, with the ball in hand, ran and ran, almost to the crowd.

It was a football-style celebration. It is not whether Harbhajan is watching English Premier League these days! But what was known that it was great ball and a great catch to dismiss a determined batsman.

Geraint Jones came in to join Flintoff who had gone back to his defensive mood!

But Jones was too new at this wearing wicket to attack Harbhajan who bowled one short, the batsman rocked back only to top edge. Pathan ran at least ten yards back at mid wicket to complete what a fine catch.

Hoggard is a known player for his ability to bat lower down the order. He was trying his best to support his captain who was playing some attacking shots, sensing the need for some quick runs.

Hoggard was looking fine until he made the perennial crime of sweeping Kumble on such a track for Darryl Hair to rule him leg before. That terminated the 27-run partnership between Hoggard and Flintoff which was threatening to become bigger.

Flintoff then completed what must have been his slowest half century ever. It wasn't pretty to watch. But it was a prettier effort than you could ever imagine simply for the way he took his team forward, ensuring that the Indians had to chase more than 300.

The need was to get some quick runs, Flintoff gave Kumble the charge only to miss the line, and this time, Dhoni didn't miss the stumping!

Kumble was to finish off the England innings soon by forcing Anderson (6) to edge one to Dravid at slip. England second innings was over for 191. Credit should go to Indian bowlers, Kumble especially and not to forget the pitch. But will it let India score 313?

Play after lunch:

Post lunch session's play began and India's attempt to end Owais Shah's vigil in the middle ended.

And that in the first over itself after play resumed. Collingwood, it seemed wanted to run away from Kumble. The England player himself had admitted that he was always confused when confronted by Kumble.

The Indian was at it again, giving him no space to breathe. The fifth ball he pushed to point and ran. Shah (38 in 188 balls, 4 fours) responded only to beaten by a ferocious throw from Sachin, knocking off two stumps!

Sachin raised his hands in triumph and with him the crowd raised their voice to celebrate, two days after booing the same man they had grown up worshiping.

Shah could not have been more unfortunate. But that was the only way he could have been out! Such was his assured batting that not even Kumble could trouble him.

Flintoff joined Collingwood in the middle and their partnership began.

The England captain made his intentions clear, that he wasn't there only to defend his team. Sreesunth was hit on the rise, and no one moved except the ball, which reached the point boundary in a flash.

Then he punched Kumble straight to Yuvraj Singh at silly point. But the Indian was slow to react. That was not the only chance that India would miss.

Inspired by Kumble, maybe, Harbhajan Singh was spitting venom, making the ball turn and bounce, beating an advancing Flintoff and Dhoni behind the stumps. Can you afford to give two chances to Big Freddie?

Kumble likes to take on the best. Not that Collingwood is a bad player. He had proved his worth in Nagpur. Here also he was hanging in there, never giving up against two spinners as different as Kumble and Harbhajan.

Flintoff once got a fuller one from Kumble and he drove straight for four. Next ball, Freddie was beaten in the air, and to catch the leaning edge, Kumble dived forward, but only managed to get his fingers. Sometimes even the best efforts are not enough. But what a battle between bat and ball!

Fortune favours the brave. Flintoff survived and Collingwood, well, he was slowly growing in confidence. Else, you don't step out to hit Harbhajan to mid wicket fence on a wearing wicket.

These two took England to 138/5 at tea, with a lead of 259 runs.

Morning session:

Dravid was desperate. Else, he would not have started the day without Irfan Pathan, who despite his forgettable show in the first innings, bowled pretty well in the four overs on Monday without ever looking like taking a wicket.

That was probably the reason Dravid turned to Munaf and Sreesunth, India's newest hopes in pace bowling, to give the breakthrough they so badly wanted.

Pathan bowled well on Monday, but it was Munaf and Sreesunth who sent back first innings centurion Andrew Strauss and Ian Bell.

They were at it again only to discover that not only Shah, but even Shaun Udal, the 37-year-old nightwatchman, was up to the challenge.

Dravid remained desperate for the first half an hour with Shah teasing him with his bottom-hand strokes on the on side and Udal with defending the way he did and even with a cover drive on the rise off Sreesunth, the first boundary of Tuesday!

But eventually it was Pathan who brought the first cheers out of the throats of his teammates. Dravid replaced Munaf and Sreesunth with Kumble and Pathan.

While Kumble came around the wicket looking for the 'rough', Pathan bowled as he normally does, pitching the ball up for the swing to play its part. Udal was mis-timing, naturally, as the pitch was slow, and was fortunate to survive twice when he almost played on.

But three overs later, Pathan finally managed to make Udal (14) edge one and Wasim Jaffer took a very good low catch in second slip.

With that ended Udal's 40-run partnership with Shah. A job well done for his team, one that gave the Indians a frustrating first four on Tuesday.

But Kumble would not relent and continued with his tactic of coming around the wicket even in front of Kevin Pietersen, a man who had taken on Shane Warne's leg-breaks that were pitched on the 'rough' in the Ashes.

But this day, Kumble won't allow Pietersen (7) to take off even if that means he would have to dive to his left, just in front of the non-striker, to take a stunning catch from the leaning edge off his own bowling. Outstanding cricket!

So Dravid finally managed to take two wickets before lunch with England at 85/4. What if he had started the day with Pathan and Kumble!

It didn't seem to matter for Shah (38 not out then) who was batting beautifully again, this time in the company of Collingwood as England took the lead past 200.

Squads:

India: Virender Sehwag, Wasim Jaffer, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni, Irfan Pathan, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, S Sreesunth, Munaf Patel.

England: Andrew Strauss, O Shah, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff, Geraint Jones, Matthew Hoggard, S Udal, James Anderson, Monty Panesar.