In the see-saw battle that the second Test between India and South Africa is turning out to be, the scales tilted ever so slightly in India's favour after tea on the third day. Proteas' batsman Hashim Amla tried to shed some of the pressure by smashing Sreeshanth for two fours in the 15th over, one past mid-off and the other, a straight drive. But in the next over, Harbhajan pegged back the South Africans when he had Alviro Petersen caught by Cheteshwar Pujara at leg slip for 26. The hosts had slipped to 82/2 in 15.4 overs. Sreeshanth then got a second breakthrough when in the 17th over, he had Amla caught behind for 16.
But that was all the success that India would taste for the day, for in the next over Pujara put down a catch from Jacques Kallis off Harbhajan. A B de Villiers and Kallis then took South Africa over 100 in the 24th over and when bad light stopped play for the day, they were on 17 and 12 respectively, with their side's score at 111/3 in 27 overs, still trailing by 191 runs.
Set with a challenging target of 303 to win the match and the series, South African openers Graeme Smith and Alviro Petersen got off to a forceful start. In then first over itself, Smith came down heavily on Zaheer Khan, taking him for two consecutive boundaries. Petersen got into the act in the next over, smacking Ishant Sharma for another four. Zaheer again came for some tap when Smith smashed him for two more boundaries in the 3rd over. South Africa had raced to 24/0 in 3 overs.
The batting pair took their side over 50 in the 10th over. Harbhajan was introduced in the next, but straight away Petersen lofted him over long on for a boundary. India got a breather in the 12th over, when Sreesanth effected the breakthrough. He had Smith caught behind for a quickfire 37 and South Africa's score was 63/1. The new batsman Hashim Amla struck a four just before tea to take his side to 70/1 in 13 overs, trailing by 233 runs.
It seemed like the lunch break had robbed Zaheer Khan of his focus as he was soon out to Paul Harris, when he edged an off-spinner to A B de Villiers at second slip. He was on his way for 27 and India and the tail was well and truly open at 218/8 in 63.4 overs. Ishant Sharma tried to support Laxman to make his century, being on 86 at that point.
But he couldn't hold out much longer and was caught by Hashim Amla at short leg, off Jacques Kallis' bowling, for a duck. India had reached the bottom of the barrel at 228/9 in 70 overs. In fact, that was exactly score they were to be bowled out for when Laxman, on 96, attempted an extravagant vuit shot, but instead got an edge to slip off Steyn's bowling. India has set South Africa a challenging target of 303 to win the match and take the series.
India began the day by resuming their second innings at 92/4, but had an ominous start. Cheteshwar Puajara was undone in the first over of the day, by a bouncer from Morne Morkel and had to head back for just 10. But then captain M S Dhoni began to stabilise the innings with Laxman. The duo took India past 100 in the 33rd over, with Dhohi striking Morkel for a four to bring up the landmark.
In the next over, the same batsman got aggressive with Dale Steyn, getting him away for two back-to-back boundaries. Dhoni wasn't allowing the bowlers to settle into a destryuctive grove and counter-attacked at the drop of a hat. He got Steyn, Morkel and Tsotsobe away for a four in each of their next overs. But his belligerent run came to an end in the 42nd over when
Tsotsobe had him caught behind for 21. India were looking precarious again at 141/6 in 42 overs.
Harbhajan couldn't meet the pressure of the situation and edged a Morkel delivery to Jacques Kallis at second slip for 4. Later that over, Laxman picked Morkel four a double and took India past the 150-run mark. Laxman reached his 50 by taking a double of Morkel in the 47th over.
He had begun to find a fairly capable partner in Zaheer Khan. The two mixed caution with aggression to take India to a lead of in excess of 250 as the score crossed 176/7. Laxman appeared to have really found his groove, smacking off-spinner Paul Harris for 3 fours and Steyn for 1 as India's score ticked to over 200/7. The batsman's score had climbed to 84 with India at 206/7 in 60 overs.
Shortly afterwards, Zaheer got stuck into Tsotsobe, smacking him for two consecutive fours to round-off the 62nd over as India went into lunch at a healthy 218/7 with the lead at 292. How much more can India hold out and extend their lead? Will Laxman survive to make a century? Will Zaheer make a fifty? Find out after the lunch break.