New Delhi: Disastrous start to an easy run chase somewhat marred an otherwise brilliant performance by India on day four of the second Test against Zimbabwe on Sunday which was marked by superlative efforts from spinners Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble.The two spinners skittled Zimbabwe out for 146 in the second innings, with Harbhajan claiming six wickets for 62 runs and Kumble four for 58, to leave India, which had earlier in the day gained a 25-run first innings lead, a modest task of chasing 122 for a 2-0 sweep of the series. However, three early wickets including that of first innings centurion Saurav Ganguly derailed the run chase of the hosts, who found themselves in a shaky position at 36 for three at close. Opener Shiv Sunder Das was batting on 10 while Sachin Tendulkar was yet to open his account when stumps were drawn on an extended day of play on Sunday.
With Virender Sehwag doubtful to bat after he injured his shoulder while fielding, India has its task cut out when it resumes its chase on Monday. Play was extended by half an hour each in the morning and afternoon sessions to make up for over three hours of loss due to rain and poor light on Saturday. Zimbabwe batsmen fell like ninepins against the Indian spinners with Harbhajan Singh starting the slide in the eighth over. Except skipper Stuart Carlisle and Grant Flower, none of the Zimbabwe batsmen could stay long at the wicket and succumbed to the guiles of the duo. Carlisle battled for nearly two hours in hostile conditions before becoming the victim of a brilliant caught and bowled effort by Harbhajan Singh.
The catch had to be referred to the third umpire who took a lot of time before ruling that the off spinner had taken the catch cleanly diving to his left. The fall of Carlisle as the fourth wicket broke the back of Zimbabwe innings. Though Grant Flower made a valiant effort by holding on to one end, he did not get any support from the other batsmen. Grant Flower waged a lonely battle for nearly two-and-a-half hours but fell as the last wicket just one run short of his half-century. His sweep shot off Kumble was well taken by Harbhajan in the deep mid-wicket area. Harbhajan had earlier taken three quick wickets to reduce Zimbabwe to 31 for three by the 12th over.
He dismissed opener Trevor Gripper, who was caught by Rahul Dravid in the first slip, in the eighth over and then sent back Alistair Campbell (2) and danger man Andy Flower (0) within a space of four balls as Zimbabwe took lunch at 42 for three. First innings top scorer Dion Ebrahim put up resistance for some time before his 22-run knock ended in a leg before wicket decision in favour of Kumble. Earlier, India's first innings came to a close one hour into the morning session with the addition of 35 runs to the overnight total. Skipper Ganguly, who struck his first hundred in over two years, was dismissed in the very first over of the day after adding only a single to his overnight score of 135. Ganguly tried to sweep the last delivery from Ray Price but only managed a top-edge and gave a simple catch to Trevor Gripper at forward short leg to bring an end to his more than eight-hour stay at the crease.
Kumble, who was not out on 19 on Saturday, continued with his good show with the bat and played like an accomplished batsman, displaying a few fine strokes on both sides of the wicket. Kumble's fifth four saw India overtaking Zimbabwe's first innings score of 329. But he could not get enough support from the other end as Javagal Srinath (0), Zaheer Khan (8) and Harbhajan Singh (9) were dismissed in quick succession. Kumble remained unbeaten on 34 with six boundaries after more than two hours of batting.