Ahemdabad: A forgettable performance in the field left India battling against history as it started its chase of 374 runs for victory against England in the second Test in Ahemdabad on Friday.
A series of dropped catches allowed England to reach 257 in its second innings with opener Mark Butcher capitalising on three 'lives' to top-score with 92. Combined with its first innings lead of 116, England set a formidable target for the home team that is 1-0 up in the series after winning the Mohali Test by 10 wickets.
Only once have India surpassed a total more than this in the fourth innings to win a Test when they successfully chased 406 against West Indies in 1976 and it remains an all-time Test record. Three years later India fell just nine runs short, finishing at 429 for eight while chasing 438 against England in Oval.
India got its first task right, seeing off the seven overs of its second innings on Friday without losing any wicket. By the end of the fourth day's play, India was 17 without loss, needing another 357 to win in the 90 overs on Saturday, which promises to be a fascinating final day of the Test. England pressed in its spin attack straightaway with left-arm Ashley Giles, who had taken a five-wicket haul in the first innings, being operating in the second over. But Shiv Sunder Das greeted him with a beautiful square drive off the second ball that ran to the fence.
Deep Dasgupta, who had a horrendous time behind the wicket in both innings of England, padded away most deliveries, surviving a strong leg before wicket appeal in the process. When the day's play came to an end, Das, who took three catches earlier in the day, was batting on 11 with the help of two boundaries while Dasgupta was on six.England had earlier played it safe and did not declare its second innings even after extending its lead to more than 350 runs.
A 112-run stand for the second wicket between Butcher and skipper Nasser Hussain, who scored 50, had put the visitors in a very strong position when they resumed their batting on Friday at the overnight 15 without loss.India fought back with three quick wickets just before tea with Harbhajan Singh, who later completed another five-wicket haul, his sixth, and Anil Kumble finally tasting success. A declaration looked imminent anytime when England resumed at 183 for five after tea, 299 runs ahead.
The batsmen went for their shots and tried to accelerate the scoring rate but the declaration never came. England was finally bowled out 20 minutes before stumps when Harbhajan Singh had Mathew Hoggard caught by Das at deep mid-wicket. Harbhajan finished with figures of five for 71 while Kumble, who claimed seven wickets in the first innings, took three for 118 and was stranded on 299 Test wickets.