Laxman, Ganguly take India to huge score

Venkatsai Laxman and Sourav Ganguly hammered robust centuries to take India to a formidable total against Pakistan in the second Test on Saturday.

Laxman scored an unbeaten 112 for his 11th Test hundred and left-handed Ganguly a solid 102 for his 14th, as India posted a mammoth 616-5 declared in their first innings after resuming at 352-3.

Under-pressure Pakistan faltered in reply as they lost Yasir Hameed (21) in leg-spinner Anil Kumble’s opening over before reaching 50-1 on the second day.

Salman Butt (26) and Younis Khan (three) were at the crease when bad light stopped play.

Laxman and Ganguly were not the only batsmen to reach the three-figure mark against a hapless Pakistani attack on a flat track as opener Wasim Jaffer (202) earlier completed his second double-century.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni also joined the party, smashing one six and six fours in his unbeaten 50. India’s total was their highest against Pakistan at home, surpassing the previous best of 539-9 declared at Chennai in 1961.

Nearly 60 000 spectators enjoyed the run feast at Eden Gardens as Ganguly scored his first Test hundred on his home ground before Laxman completed his century with a string of elegant strokes.

There was also drama when Pakistani leg-spinner Danish Kaneria beat Laxman, and wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal removed the bails to appeal for a stumping. The Indian had reached his century at that stage.

West Indies umpire Billy Doctrove referred the decision to third-umpire Amish Saheba of India. Laxman started walking towards the pavilion when a giant screen flashed ”Out” before correcting it to ”Not Out.”

It was a frustrating day for Pakistan, who could grab just two wickets in more than two sessions, removing Jaffer in the morning and Ganguly in the afternoon.

Key fast bowler Shaoib Akhtar, declared fit on Friday after suffering from a chest infection, looked below his best in short spells for a second successive day as he failed to take a wicket.

Pakistan were always a quality bowler short as inexperienced left-arm seamer Sohail Tanvir, fast bowler Mohammad Sami and Kaneria were unable to keep pressure on Ganguly and Laxman on an unhelpful pitch.

Tanvir, playing only his second Test, finished with 2-166 and Kaneria with 2-194.

India made the most of ideal batting conditions, with Ganguly and Laxman demoralising the Pakistani attack with their exciting strokeplay during a 163-run stand for the fifth wicket.

Jaffer, 192 overnight, reached his double-hundred in the morning’s second over, when he drove Akhtar through the covers and then steered him past gully for two fours.

He was just 10 short of his career-best 212, made against the West Indies at Antigua last year, when he edged Tanvir’s first delivery to Akmal. He struck 34 fours in his 274-ball knock.

Runs came comfortably from both the ends as Laxman and Ganguly dominated the Pakistani attack in the afternoon session. Laxman hit 15 fours and Ganguly 14.

Ganguly looked in trouble just once when he offered a difficult chance while fending off a rising delivery from Akhtar, the ball flying past a diving Hameed at gully for a boundary.

India lead 1-0 in the three-Test series following their six-wicket victory in the opening match in New Delhi on Monday. — Sapa-AFP

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