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Sourav kills two birds with one Test

New Delhi, Nov. 25: Anil Kumble was about to hand the ball to Munaf Patel when he suddenly beckoned Sourav Ganguly. That moment today probably turned the match and perhaps the Bengal left-hander’s immediate fortunes.

Day Four of the Delhi Test belonged to Sourav, whose all-round show left India just 32 away from the target of 203 with seven wickets left.

The figures of two for 20 and 48 not out reveal little. Sourav tilted the scales twice — once with the ball and later as a batsman — when the match was in the balance with a Pakistan fightback taking shape.

In the morning, the part-time bowler may have been brought on to annoy and entice the batsmen — first-innings rescuers Misbah-ul Haq and Mohammed Sami.

By the middle of the over, the captain was impressed enough to take the new ball. The next delivery took out Misbah, who made a mad charge only for the bowler to drop it a little short. Same over, two balls later, Sami holed out to midwicket and Pakistan’s hopes of a 250-plus lead vanished.

“Ganguly put us in trouble by taking two wickets in three balls. Another 50 runs would have put us in a comfortable position,” said Pakistan pacer Sohail Tanveer.

Yet even 203 looked uncertain when Rahul Dravid fell nine runs after Wasim Jaffer. At 93 for three, amid memories of the first-innings mini-collapse, Sourav walked out into the Kotla haze to join old partner Sachin Tendulkar.

The Calcuttan knew that a sword hung over him. V.V.S. Laxman had played a sterling first innings amid the clamour to drop either senior to make room for Yuvraj Singh.

Two quick boundaries in a Sami over — the first a velvety cover drive — settled the nerves and Sourav was off playing shots, allowing Sachin to knuckle down. Two late fours came off Danish Kaneria. When the batsmen accepted the light, the left-hander had raced past his 30s jinx to 48 off 61 balls. In India’s 171 for three, Sachin was 32 off 86.

“Sourav is in very fine form with both ball and bat. His performance played a crucial role in today’s proceedings,” Jaffer said.

Sachin overtook Allan Border to become the second-highest scorer in Tests but showed no emotion. “We are not celebrating at the moment,” cricket manager Lalchand Rajput said. “Let's win tomorrow….”

Tomorrow, the long-time ODI opening partners come out to finish what Rajput described as “the unfinished job”.

Today, as they walked back at stumps, Sourav patted Sachin on the back. The Little Master smiled and seemed to murmur a “thank you”. Then they together disappeared into the pavilion.

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