Pakistan back into battle opposite India

Left-handed opening pair Imran Farhat and Salman Butt Monday brought Pakistan back into contention with a century partnership after India conceded a narrow first innings lead on the second day of the third and decisive cricket test. Both openers combined for a 109-run stand as Pakistan extended its lead to 180 runs and finished the day at 173 for two in its second innings. Mohammad Yousuf completed his 5,000 runs in test matches and was not out on 30 while captain Younis Khan was not out on 25.

"The wicket is getting better for batting and now it's up to our batsmen to set up a big total," said Pakistan fast bowler Mohammad Asif, who grabbed four wickets in India's first innings score of 238.

The three-strong Indian seam attack that restricted Pakistan to 245 in the first innings struggled to stem the flow of runs in the second turn with both Farhat (57) and Butt (53) smashing 10 boundaries each in their half centuries.

However, both departed in the space of three overs with fourth seamer Sourav Ganguly trapping Butt leg before wicket and Farhat mistimed a pull short and skied a catch to Sachin Tendulkar at mid-on.

Earlier, Indian tailenders capitalized on sloppy Pakistan fielding to score 238 and fell just seven runs short of Pakistan's first innings score.

Pakistan dropped at least four catches as Irfan Pathan and Zaheer Khan added 56 vital runs for the ninth wicket.

Captain Younis Khan, leading the side in absence of the injured Inzamam-ul-Haq, floored a chest high catch before Pathan had scored and Mohammad Asif misjudged a head high catch at the boundary when the left-hander was on 6.

Pathan, who grabbed a hat-trick on the first day and finished with his seventh five-wicket haul, hit six fours and pulled fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar over the square leg boundary in his 51-ball knock of 40.

Zaheer was also let off the hook on 15 when Shoaib Akhtar dropped a sitter at the cover boundary before he became fast bowler Mohammad Asif's (4-78) fourth victim of the innings and was the last man to be dismissed an hour and 20 minutes after lunch.

"I just tried to bowl consistently on the line of off stump and it paid off," Asif said.

"The wicket had some moisture that assisted the seam bowlers and it was difficult for batsmen," he added.

India lost three wickets in the first session after it resumed from its overnight score of 74 for four with seamer Abdul Razzaq striking twice.

Razzaq (3-67) could have got wickets on successive deliveries but Kamran Akmal dropped a difficult chance down the leg side of Anil Kumble's gloves before Khan missed Pathan's catch.

Overnight batsmen Yuvraj Singh (45) and former captain Ganguly (34) braved a barrage of short pitched deliveries of wayward Akhtar's five-over spell that cost the fast bowler 21 runs.

They added a rapid 62 runs off 12 overs in the first hour with some impressive strokes and stretched their partnership to 81 off 106 balls before Razzaq hit back.

Ganguly hit six boundaries that included a couple of fluent cover drives and a well-timed square cut off Akhtar before he got a top edge to Razzaq's short delivery and was caught in the deep.

Asif beat the edge of the bat on a number of occasions with his brilliant line and length on a seamers' wicket and was finally rewarded for his hard work when he trapped Yuvraj leg before wicket at the total of 165. Yuvraj's 74-ball knock featured eight boundaries.

At the same total, Razzaq found the big edge of Mahendra Dhoni's (13) bat, and Akmal took a fine diving catch before Pathan and Zaheer cut down the lead to just seven runs with a fine partnership, reports the AP.


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