Kaif, Kumble steady after Hoggard~~s show

Published: Tuesday, March 14, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Nagpur:After Matthew Hoggard ripped through Indian top order with a five wicket haul, Mohammed Kaif hit an unbeaten half century to guide the hosts to 252 for seven at tea on the third day of the first Test here today.

At the break, Kaif was at the crease on 61 and giving company was Anil Kumble on 19. They put on a fighting 62-run unbroken eighth-wicket partnership with Kaif reaching his third Test fifty just before the break. Kaif's 61 came from 146 deliveries and had seven hits to the fence in it.

The duo came together when the team was in deep trouble at 190 for seven and Matthew Hoggard bowling the spell of his life.

Kaif dug his heels in and took full advantage of the chance given by the opposing captain Andrew Flintoff, when the bowler dropped a difficult return catch when the batsman was on 18 and India were 194 for seven.

Slowly but surely, the two grafted runs and when the chance presented, they scored important runs to take the team closer to England's first innings score of 393.

Kaif took full advantage of Steve Harmison, who was the weak link in the English bowling today hitting him for a brilliant cover drive and then in the same over slashed the bowler over slips for another boundary.

At the other end, Kumble, who had started off with a streaky boundary over slips, also received a reprieve when he was on nine, with Geriant Jones dropping him behind the stumps off Harmison.

India was 217 for seven then.

Kumble then rubbed salt by executing a perfect cover drive of Harmison.

Earlier in the morning session, an incisive spell of swing bowling by Matthew Hoggard reduced India to 149 for four after resuming at 136 for one, with Dravid, Jaffer and Laxman all gone to Hoggard's superb spell, as the Yorkshire man used the overcast conditions and the slight moisture on the wicket due to overnight rain to telling effect.

Sachin Tendulkar, who began his innings with a leg side four off Flintoff, then started conslidating the innings along with Kaif and saw off Hoggard who in his morning spell bowled six overs and took three for six.

The two put on 27 runs for the fifth wicket when Monty Panesar struck the most important blow with the left arm spinner got Tendulkar to push forward to a ball which came in with the arm and then straightened to rap the master batsman on the pads right in front of the wicket for 16 with India on 176 for for five. This was Panesar's first Test wicket.

Dhoni also left soon after making just five, edging a Flintoff delivery behind for wicketkeeper G Jones to complete the catch with India on 183 for six and staring down the barrel.

Pathan left after lunch edging Hoggard for Flintoff to take a good catch to his right at second slip.

After the fall of Pathan and with the wicket easing out as the sun shone brightly, Kaif and Kumble fought back for India and gave them a semblance of hope and keep the visitors' lead to as less as possible.

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