Cricket: Ramesh and Ganguly put India on top

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The Independent Online
A MAGNIFICENT 96 by the opener Sadagoppan Ramesh and an unbeaten half-century by Saurav Ganguly put India in command of the second Test against Pakistan yesterday as they stretched their lead to 404.

The home side reached 324 for 7 by the end of the third day to leave Pakistan with an uphill task to save the Test batting last on a turning wicket with low bounce. Victory would enable India to draw the two-test series, having lost the first meeting by a mere 12 runs in Madras last week.

In the post-lunch session the Pakistan captain, Wasim Akram, became his country's leading wicket-taker in Tests, capturing the wickets of his opposite number Mohammed Azharuddin and wicketkeeper Nayan Mongia with successive deliveries. Akram took his tally of wickets to 363, surpassing Imran Khan's 362.

He bowled Azharuddin for 14 and trapped Mongia leg before for nought to leave India on 199 for 6 and at that stage it looked like they would not reach 250.

But an unbroken 93-run eighth-wicket partnership between Ganguly (58 not out) and Javagal Srinath (44 not out) swung the initiative back to India.

India owed their impressive score to the young opener Ramesh who was unlucky to miss his maiden Test century by four runs. Playing in his second test, Ramesh scored a half- century in the first innings and was heading toward the century mark in his second knock. Unruffled by the pressure of playing against Pakistan, the left-handed Ramesh cut, drove and pulled with elegance. But he lost his nerves momentarily when one stroke away from the coveted century, hitting a full toss from leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed back to the bowler.

India had begun the day on a cautious note, adding 80 runs by lunch to the overnight score of 46 for 1 and losing Rahul Dravid in the process. After a solid start, Dravid virtually threw away his wicket, sweeping Saqlain Mushtaq from across the off-stump. He ended up hitting the ball high in the air and into the hands of Ijaz Ahmed in the slips. Dravid hit two boundaries, off 72 balls, in his 121 minutes at the crease.

India's star batsman, Sachin Tendulkar, perhaps stung by criticism that he threw away his wicket for six in the first innings, was the picture of patience, scoring his first run from only the 26th ball. But as the sun came out on a cold and cloudy morning, Tendulkar also warmed up and hit two consecutive boundaries off Saqlain Mushtaq. The crowd, which has swelled to 20,000 to see the home side batting, cheered. But he got out with his score at 29 as he tried to hit leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed over mid-on. Akram took an easy catch. That gave Pakistan some hope, having been dismissed for just 172 in their first innings, but Ganguly's late resistance killed off all reasonable hopes that they could win the series 2-0.

Security at the stadium has been particularly tight in this first series between the two countries in more than a decade. India's right-wing Shiv Sena party called off threats to disrupt the game and so far no trouble has been reported.