| Teammates congratulate Irfan Pathan after he dismissed Pakistani opener Taufeeq Umar on the third day of the final Test in Rawalpindi on Thursday. (AFP)
Rawalpindi: Pressing relentlessly in their pursuit of a first-ever series triumph in Pakistan, India had the home side on the mat after the third day of the third and decisive Test here on Thursday.
After Rahul Dravid amassed 270 to help his side pile up 600 for a lead of 376, India knocked out both Pakistan openers to leave the hosts struggling at 49 for two. Pakistan’s task is cut out, as they need to bat through two days to avoid a first-ever home series loss to India.
Dravid, who went to the middle in the final session of Day I — after Virender Sehwag’s first-ball dismissal — became the first Indian to notch up five Test double centuries before being bowled by part-time spinner Imran Farhat trying a reverse-sweep. The vice-captain’s career-best effort, spanning 12 hours and 20 minutes, came in 495 balls and included 34 boundaries and a six.
Hit hard by the absence of their best bowler Shoaib Akhtar — who left the field with an injury on his left hand towards the close of Wednesday’s play and did not take the field at all on Day III — Pakistan toiled all day but got success when it was already too late.
The day’s highlight was certainly the batsmanship of Dravid who again lived up to his reputation as ‘The Wall’. His third double century of the season took him past Sunil Gavaskar’s Indian record of four Test double tons.
The right-hander also earned the distinction of making the highest score at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium, erasing Salim Malik’s 237.
Dravid displayed tremendous concentration and stamina during his marathon vigil at the crease which saw him share century stands with Parthiv Patel (second wicket), V.V.S. Laxman (fourth) and Sourav Ganguly (fifth). Two more runs for the would sixth wicket with Yuvraj Singh would have given Dravid a fourth hundred-partnership.
Sourav made a fine 77 — off 128 balls with 12 fours — before being dismissed in a bizarre fashion. The captain, calling for a sharp single, ducked into a throw from point and although he was in safe zone, he hadn’t grounded the bat.
Yuvraj chipped in with a solid 47. Dravid was the ninth batsman out and the Indian innings folded up shortly before the last drinks break.
Resuming Thursday at 342 for four, Dravid and Sourav played out the initial overs cautiously and were quite content in waiting for the loose balls to keep the scoreboard ticking.
A depleted Pakistan attack relied on Mohammed Sami and Fazle Akbar to provide the breakthrough in the morning but the duo was made to look pedestrian by some quality batting.
Dravid was again a picture of concentration and brought up his 150 in style, square-driving Sami to the point boundary.
Sourav’s century was there for the taking before he ran himself out trying to avoid being hit rather than stick to the basics of grounding the bat first.
Yuvraj took his time to judge the pace and bounce of the track and was quite content in taking the ones and twos with gentle pushes and nudges. The left-hander showed his class after getting his eye in, playing some breathtaking shots. He picked up Akbar for special treatment.
Sami, returning for a fresh spell after the post-lunch drinks break, trapped Yuvraj leg-before.
Dravid, who was dropped on 71 yesterday, had another slice of luck when a confident shout for a catch at forward short-leg, off Danish Kaneria, was turned down by umpire David Shepherd.
Irfan Pathan, who scored a gritty 49 in the Lahore Test, played sensibly giving as much support as possible to Dravid. After tea, Pathan, Anil Kumble and Lakshmipathy Balaji fell quickly trying to put on some quick runs.
Balaji and Pathan accounted for the two openers. Yasir Hameed (8) and Kamran Akmal (13) were at the crease when stumps were drawn. (PTI)