| Harbhajan Singh celebrates his 200th wicket, that of Charles Coventry in Bulawayo on Thursday
Bulawayo: Captain Sourav Ganguly laboured his way into form with a patient century before Irfan Pathan produced a devastating spell to put India on the threshold of a resounding victory in the first Test against Zimbabwe on Thursday.
Sourav (101) notched up his 12th Test century to come out of a prolonged form slump as the visitors piled up 554 in their first innings to take a lead of 275 runs and then leave the hosts tottering at 67 for six at close on the third day.
After Sourav completed his first century in nearly two years, it was Irfan Pathan who stole the limelight at the Queens Club late in the day with a brilliant spell of swing bowling to demolish the Zimbabwean top order, returning with figures of four for 35.
Harbhajan Singh, wicketless in the first innings, finally claimed his 200th Test wicket with the dismissal of Charles Coventry in the last ball of the day. He also became the fastest Indian to reach the 200-wicket club in only 46 Tests.
The hosts were still trailing by 208 runs and with two full days left, it was just a matter of time before the Indians wrapped up the game for a 1-0 lead in the two-match series.
Souravís confidence-boosting century came at a painstakingly slow pace as he consumed 261 balls before perishing to Ewing in the very next ball in a bid to force the pace of scoring.
Sourav had waited for nearly two years and 13 Tests to add another century to his tally which was his 12th in his 83rd game.
There was a certain inevitability about it, given the stingless attack of Zimbabwe and the purpose with which the left-hander has batted in this innings.
India lost only wicket in the afternoon session as Pathan, after a stylishly composed 52, gave a return catch to left-arm spinner Keith Dabengwa.
He put on 97 runs for the seventh wicket with Sourav. Earlier, overnight batsman V.V.S.Laxman was run out after he pushed a delivery to mid-on and called for a single but Sourav wasnít prone to respond to his call.
Laxman went away remonstrating but it must be said the mistake was all of his own making. He batted a little over five hours for 140 runs and hit 21 fours from 221 balls. He put on 128 runs for the fourth wicket with his captain which took 159 minutes and 208 balls.
Yuvraj Singh seemed in brilliant touch during his short stay and couple of his off-drives were a treat to watch. He then tried to flick a stump-delivery from left-arm spinner Keith Dabengwa to mid-wicket and yorked himself for 12 runs.