New Delhi: Zimbabwe grabbed two big wickets in the closing overs to put India under pressure despite an unbeaten 78 by skipper Saurav Ganguly in the second and final Test on Friday.The Indian captain returned to form with an impressive knock only to see his team slip from 142 for two to 144 for four in the closing stages against a tight Zimbabwean spin bowling and fielding. The stylish left-hander's first half-century in eight Tests enabled India to reach 171 for four at stumps on the second day in reply to Zimbabwe's 329 at the Ferozeshah Kotla Ground. Virender Sehwag was batting on 16. Left-arm spinner Raymond Price played a big role in restoring balance, getting the prize wicket of batting superstar Sachin Tendulkar (36) in the 11th over before close.
He conceded just 47 in his 26 disciplined overs. India suffered another blow two overs and as many runs later when Rahul Dravid was run out for one, failing to beat a Travis Friend direct hit from mid-on to the non- striker's end. Ganguly and Tendulkar had steadied the innings with an 84-run stand for the third wicket after the early dismissals of openers Shiv Sunder Das (13) and Deep Dasgupta (19). Earlier, middle-order batsman Dion Ebrahim missed his maiden Test century by just six runs as Zimbabwe lost its remaining four wickets for 69 after resuming at 260 for six.
Zimbabwe then did not allow India to make a solid start as seamers Heath Streak and Friend removed both the openers in its impressive opening spells to reduce the hosts to 58 for two in the post-lunch session. Streak provided the breakthrough when he had Das caught by wicket-keeper Tatenda Taibu down the leg-side with a waist-high delivery in his sixth over. Friend, who scored a valuable 43 in the morning, deceived wicket-keeper Dasgupta with a slower one to trap the batsman leg before. Ganguly, struggling for a big knock since making an unbeaten 98 against Sri Lanka at Kandy last year, looked in excellent form as he drove, pulled and cut firmly on way to his 16th Test half-century.
Tendulkar, initially surprised on a couple of occasions by the turn and bounce of Price's deliveries, was eventually trapped leg before on the backfoot with the one that kept a bit low. He flourished for a brief period as he flicked, drove and cut Friend for three boundaries in an over. He struck five fours in his 119-ball knock. Ganguly completed his half-century in the last session and then hoisted left-arm spinner Grant Flower over long-on for the first six of the Indian innings. He also struck 11 fours in his unbeaten 169-ball innings.
The Zimbabwean innings lasted 20.5 overs in the morning, with Ebrahim scoring a defiant 94 before being trapped leg before by paceman Javagal Srinath. Leg spinner Anil Kumble then struck two quick blows to ensure that the tourists did not bat through the morning session. He trapped Taibu leg before and bowled Price in the space of three deliveries to finish with three for 88. Ebrahim defied the Indian attack for over five hours, hitting 10 fours off 203 deliveries. He missed the three-figure mark, but had the satisfaction of scoring his career-best score in the 12th Test. His previous highest was 71 which he got on three occasions, twice against South Africa and once against the West Indies at home last year.