India near cricket Test series win over Pakistan
BANGALORE, India (AFP) — Misbah-ul-Haq relished India’s attack with a second successive century to boost Pakistan’s hopes of forcing a draw in the third and final Test here on Tuesday.
The middle-order batsman followed his second-Test 161 with a brilliant 133 not out as Pakistan warded off a threat of follow-on to post 537 in their first innings in reply to India’s 626.
India were strongly placed to clinch their first Test series against Pakistan at home since 1980 after reaching 131-2 in their second innings at stumps on the penultimate day for an overall lead of 220.
The hosts lead 1-0 in the series, with the final Test heading for a draw.
India lost openers Gautam Gambhir (three) and Wasim Jaffer (18) before former captains Sourav Ganguly (63 not out) and Rahul Dravid (35 not out) steadied the innings with an unfinished 105-run stand for the third wicket.
Ganguly, who smashed a maiden Test double-hundred in the first innings, raced to his half-century off 57 balls with a six off leg-spinner Danish Kaneria and nine fours.
The hosts needed a couple of early wickets in the morning to raise victory hopes after Pakistan had resumed at 369-5, but had to wait for two sessions to wrap up the innings on a track where the ball sometimes kept low.
“Our first target was to avoid the follow-on and we did that. If India set a target then we will go after it. The pitch surprises me as the odd ball keeps low, but it’s getting better and better,” said Pakistan’s coach Geoff Lawson.
“I think this needs to be a five-Test series. It’s little unsatisfactory to have three Tests because it’s tough to come back after losing the first. India and Pakistan deserve a five-match series.”
India also earned a dubious distinction of conceding a record 76 extras in a Test innings, surpassing the previous highest of 71 by the West Indies against Pakistan at Georgetown in 1988.
The sundries were the third-highest contributor in the innings after Misbah and stand-in captain Younis Khan (80).
Misbah, who had played just seven Tests before this series since his debut in 2001, was Pakistan’s find of the tour as he remained a thorn in India’s flesh with scores of 82, 45, 161 not out, six and 133 not out in five innings.
The 33-year-old played a key role in two useful partnerships to thwart India, adding 144 for the sixth wicket with wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal (65) and 93 for the next with debutant Yasir Arafat (44).
“It surprises me that he (Misbah) has not played much, but he has been outstanding in this series. It needs an unplayable ball to get him out. He concentrates hard and has shown he is a world-class player,” said Lawson.
India’s 19-year-old seamer Ishant Sharma, playing only his second Test, claimed the last four wickets to finish with 5-118, but Pakistan had already saved a follow-on at that stage.
Needing 427 to make India bat again, Pakistan achieved their objective in the second hour of the morning during the Misbah-Akmal partnership.
There was no stopping Misbah, who continued to frustrate the Indian attack with a solid defence and a flawless shot-selection. He hit 17 fours in his 322-ball knock.
It was the second successive time Misbah and Akmal helped their team avoid the follow-on, having already done so in the drawn second Test in Kolkata with resolute centuries.
With the pitch offering little help to seamers and spinners, India found wickets hard to come by as they got just one in the morning.
Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh was the lone wicket-taker in the morning, when he had Akmal stumped by Dinesh Karthik.
Akmal executed some handsome shots and added 33 to his overnight score of 32. He hit 12 fours in his eighth half-century.
India 1st innings 626 (S. Ganguly 239, Y. Singh 169, I. Pathan 102; Y. Arafat 5-161, D. Kaneria 3-168)
Pakistan 1st innings (overnight 369-5):
Fall of wickets: 1-59 (Hameed), 2-149 (Butt), 3-221 (Younis), 4-227 (Yousuf), 5-288 (Iqbal), 6-432 (Akmal), 7-525 (Arafat), 8-527 (Sami), 9-529 (Akhtar).
India 2nd innings:
Fall of wickets: 1-17 (Gambhir), 2-26 (Jaffer)