Port of Spain (Trinidad): Venkatsai Laxman and Saurav Ganguly shared a century stand to brighten India's chances of setting a stiff fourth-innings target for the West Indies in the second Test on Sunday.
Laxman was batting on 60 and skipper Ganguly on 48 as India recovered from 56 for four to reach 165-4 for an overall lead of 259 with six wickets in hand at stumps on the third day at the Queen's Park Oval. The West Indies was all out for 245 in reply to India's first innings total of 339 in the morning session. Laxman and Dravid helped India survive Sachin Tendulkar's dismissal for nought with a 109-run stand for the unfinished fifth wicket after the tourists looked to be in a spot of bother when fast bowler Adam Sanford took two wickets off successive overs. India was 54 for one before losing make-shift opener Sanjay Bangar (16), Rahul Dravid (36) and Tendulkar in the space of 13 balls for just two runs against the West Indies pace attack. Sanford, playing only his second Test, began it with the wicket of Bangar, who was caught driving by skipper Carl Hooper at second slip after playing a supporting role for 105 minutes. Dravid had been batting confidently before losing his concentration and wicket, caught off his gloves by wicket-keeper Junior Murray down the leg-side off paceman Cameron Cuffy. The big wicket came when Tendulkar was surprisingly adjudged leg before by Sri Lankan umpire Asoka de Silva after being rapped on the top of his pad off a climbing Sanford delivery. Laxman and Ganguly then denied the West Indies any further success for more than a session. In-form Laxman completed his third successive Test half-century off Hooper in the last session, having slammed 69 in the opening drawn Test at Gerogetown and an unbeaten 69 in the first innings. He was more aggressive than his captain, driving and flicking firmly to hit seven fours in his 125-ball knock. A tiring West Indies attack lost much of its sharpness in the closing session, with all of the four fast bowlers looking more like run-containing than wicket-taking bowlers. Paceman Mervyn Dillon did little of note after trapping opener Shiv Das leg before for no score in his third over, finishing with one for 34 off 15 overs. Earlier, The West Indies lost its remaining four wickets for 48 runs after resuming at 197 for six. Hooper, with only tailenders to give him company, was the lone batsman to defy the Indian attack with 50. Left-arm fast bowlers Ashish Nehra and Zaheer Khan, and off spinner Harbhajan Singh shared three of the four wickets that fell in the morning. Srinath was the most successful bowler, finishing with three for 71 off 22 overs. Nehra, Zaheer and Harbhajan each took two. India kept the pressure on the West Indies batsmen from the opening over, with Srinath and Nehra keeping a tidy line and length during their impressive opening spells. Nehra struck first when he trapped Dillon leg before for nine after he had added just three to his overnight score of six. Marlon Black was run out after batting for 41 minutes for his six runs, failing to beat a Harbhajan direct hit from point. Even Hooper, running short of partners, could not take any liberties against the Indian attack. He fell just when he tried to play his first big shot, driving Zaheer straight to Ganguly at cover after adding 20 to his overnight score of 30. He was the ninth batsman out after hitting four boundaries in his 111-ball knock. Sanford (12) chanced his arms, lofting Zaheer over cover and then over mid-off for two fours before falling to a brilliant running catch by Tendulkar at mid-wicket.