Ganguly helps India gain lead over SA

Sourav Ganguly cracked a gutsy 87 on a difficult pitch to help India gain a slender advantage on the second day of the third and final Test against South Africa in Kanpur on Saturday.

India were struggling at 123-4 before reaching 288-9 in their first innings at stumps in reply to South Africa’s 265 on a day of fluctuating fortunes, thanks to Ganguly’s 34th Test half-century.

Ganguly counter-attacked brilliantly on a track of uneven bounce, smashing a six off left-arm spinner Paul Harris and nine fours during his 119-ball knock to pull his team out of trouble.

He put on 65 for the fifth wicket with Yuvraj Singh (32) and 60 for the next with stand-in captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (32).

South Africa succeeded in restricting the Indian lead when they grabbed three wickets in the space of 11 runs with the new ball.

Ganguly, who had tail-enders to keep him company when nearing his 16th Test 100, was the ninth out. He tried a big shot and was caught by Hashim Amla in the covers, but not before giving a superb display of strokemaking.

The left-hander, who also scored 87 in his previous innings in Ahmedabad, offered a difficult chance on 40 off paceman Morne Morkel, but diving Neil McKenzie failed to latch on to it in the covers.

The Indian batsmen were involved in a fascinating duel with the South African bowlers before gaining the lead on a wicket steadily getting trickier for batting.

Morkel (3-57) put India in trouble with two wickets in successive overs in the afternoon session, dismissing well-set Venkatsai Laxman (50) and Rahul Dravid (29). The latter not only lost his wicket to an unplayable delivery, but also suffered a nasty blow on the left wrist.

Dravid, who added 78 for the third wicket with Laxman, was surprised by the awkward bounce off a good-length delivery and gave an easy catch to AB de Villiers in the gully.

Morkel, playing only his sixth Test, was sharp and unpredictable in his opening four-over spell after lunch as he troubled both Laxman and Dravid with clever variations.

Laxman kept the South African attack at bay for more than two hours, executing handsome drives on both sides of the wicket during his 33rd Test half-century containing seven fours.

He was lucky to survive on 43 when Jacques Kallis dropped a sharp chance at first slip off Harris (2-89) after getting his left hand to it. But the batsman could not cash in on the lifeline, falling seven runs later.

It was a clever piece of bowling that undid Laxman, who played early to a delivery that moved in to knock back the off-stump.

India struggled against pace in the morning, losing openers Virender Sehwag (eight) and Wasim Jaffer (15) in the first 11 overs.

Steyn (3-60), the most successful South African bowler in the series, provided the breakthrough in his third over when he trapped Sehwag leg-before.

Jaffer played a couple of attractive shots before falling leg-before in Morkel’s opening over.

The hosts trail 1-0 in the series following their defeat by an innings and 90 runs in the second Test in Ahmedabad. The first match, in Chennai, was drawn. — Sapa-AFP

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