Ganguly guides India to slender lead against South Africa

April 12th, 2008 - 9:07 pm ICT by admin  

(Lead, Final Report)
By Qaiser Mohammad Ali
Kanpur, April 12 (IANS) Gritty half-centuries from Sourav Ganguly and V.V.S. Laxman guided India to a slender 23 runs lead as hosts ended the second day of the third cricket Test at 288 for nine wickets in the first innings, in reply to South Africa’s 265, here Saturday. At stumps, Sreesanth was batting on nine and Ishant Sharma yet to open his account at the Green Park Stadium.

Ganguly (87), who hit is 34th half-century, and Laxman (50), who scored his 33rd, negotiated the uneven bounce of the pitch with an aggressive intent while other Indian batsmen faltered after getting good starts.

The much talked about the Green Park pitch did assist the bowlers with its uneven bounce and the Indian batsmen had to encounter some devilish deliveries, particularly the one that got Rahul Dravid from Morne Morkel, the ball climbing up steeply giving no chance to the batsman. Yet, almost all the op-order batsmen got off to a decent start but could not carry on to make substantial scores.

The Indians got off to a shaky start as they lost Virender Sehwag (8) and Wasim Jaffer (15) for a mere 35 runs. But Rahul Dravid (29) and Laxman steadied the ship, adding 78 runs for the third wickets, as India scored 88 runs in the first session.

Dale Steyn drew the first blood in the fifth over when the ball kept a bit low and trapped Sehwag leg before. Morkel, in his first over of the day, accounted for Jaffer with a ball that came into him and hit low on the pad.

The South Africans bowled to a plan and fielded energetically throughout the hot, breezeless day. Their lone spinner left-armer Paul Harris took the maximum workload as he sent down 29 over and bagged two wickets. But speedsters Morkel and Steyn were the most successful with three wickets apiece while Makhaya Ntini bagged one.

India’s reply was built on three 60-plus partnerships and Ganguly, who missed what would have been his 16th century, was involved in two of them.

After Dravid and Laxman had stitched the highest partnership of the innings, Ganguly became the common link in the other two meaningful stands with Yuvraj Singh and stand-in Mahendra Singh Dhoni to take India’s score past South Africa’s.

Ganguly, who batted fluently, timing his strokes, added 65 with Yuvraj (32) for the fifth wicket and then 60 with Dhoni (32) for the sixth to overcome India’s jittery start.

Yuvraj looked good but in his bid to score quickly he perished against Harris. Then Dhoni also chanced his arm to be stumped off Harris.

South African captain Graeme Smith opted for the second new ball after 80 overs. And Steyn won a leg before decision against Harbhajan in the third over with the new ball. But by that time India had taken the lead.

Realising he was running out of partners, Ganguly tried to reach his century by hitting out. He fell failing to clear Hashim Amla in the covers.

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