Laxman and Dhoni crush South Africa

South Africa 296 & 6-0 India 643-6dec
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The Independent Online

VVS Laxman and Mahendra Singh Dhoni scored centuries as India moved into a position of immense strength on the third day of the second Test against South Africa.

Laxman oozed class and style en route to an unbeaten 143, his 15th Test century. Dhoni played his part in a massive seventh-wicket partnership with 132 not out as India drove home their advantage. The home side eventually declared on 643 for 6, a lead of 347, and South Africa faced the prospect of a tricky 10 overs before stumps. Bad light, however, ended play early and South Africa closed on six for no loss from the five deliveries bowled.

India began another profitable day with a belligerent show from nightwatchman Amit Mishra (28), although shoddy fielding from the tourists aided India's cause considerably. Laxman started briskly, turning Dale Steyn for consecutive boundaries in the first over and driving Paul Harris delectably through the covers, but it was Mishra's innings which proved the most frustrating for the visitors.

He resumed by advancing down the track and carting left-arm spinner Harris for a boundary over long-on. He should have been out shortly afterwards, Jacques Kallis grassing a chance at first slip.

Mishra then slashed Kallis for two boundaries in three deliveries before being reprieved again on 25 by Graeme Smith. He went on to add three more to his score before Morne Morkel struck with the second new ball, Kallis completing the dismissal with an excellent catch at second slip.

The home side went into the lunch interval at 431 for six, but the afternoon session was particularly pleasing for India's supporters as Dhoni and Laxman consolidated their position by amassing 117 runs.

India's last recognised batting pair were again cautious at the start of the final session – Laxman was stuck for sometime on 99 before he eventually reached his fourth Test century in nine matches at Eden Gardens. He averages more than 91 at this venue.

Dhoni then reached his fourth century – and first against South Africa – off 155 deliveries, making it only the second time four Indian batsmen have achieved centuries in the same innings. Both batsmen then climbed into South Africa's weary attack as they extended the lead beyond the 300-run mark, Dhoni clobbering Duminy for consecutive sixes before the declaration was finally made.

* England Lions were narrowly defeated by four wickets in the final Twenty20 match of the series against Pakistan A to bring their unbeaten tour record to an end. Set 147 to win after Craig Kieswetter extended his impressive form with a rapid half-century, Pakistan A appeared on course for a comfortable victory before Steve Kirby returned with the two crucial quick wickets of Umair Khan (49) and Aamer Sajjad (23). Sajid Mahmood ran out Naeem Anjum at the beginning of the last over before Tanvir Ahmed clinched the win for Pakistan A.

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