It was raining wickets on the fourth day of the second Test. When stumps were drawn, India were 36/3 in their second innings, requiring another 86 runs with seven wickets in hand to seal a series-whitewash at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium in Delhi. Shiv Sunder Das (10) and Sachin Tendulkar (0) were the two not out batsmen.
It was a most extraordinary day's cricket at the Kotla. In the 99.5 overs bowled on the day, 217 runs were scored and 17 wickets fell. The first two sessions were extended by 30 minutes each to make up for Saturday's lost time. India's first innings was quickly wrapped up in the morning for 354. Zimbabwe, however, could not handle the double spin attack of Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble and were bowled out for 146 in their second essay.
The first ball of the day gave a good idea of the drama to follow. There was a big shout for lbw by Ray Price against Sourav Ganguly which was duly negated by umpire Asoka de Silva. TV replays suggested that Ganguly was lucky not to be given out. Price though had his man a few balls later; Ganguly going for the sweep could only get a glove and the catch was well taken by Trevor Gripper, running away from short leg. Ganguly could add only one run to his overnight score before being dismissed for 136 off 284 balls.
Javagal Srinath (0) then became Price's third victim, caught by Gripper at silly point. Harbhajan Singh, who followed, hit a couple of lusty blows for fours off Price before falling to Streak's pace, trapped leg before. Last man Zaheer Khan (8) saw his stumps uprooted by Streak (37.2-11-92-4). Anil Kumble ran out of partners to remain unbeaten on 34. For Zimbabwe, Ray Price bowled well to finish with figures of 50-16-108-3.
The visitors have not had the rub of the green going their way in this match. Trevor Gripper (10) was the unlucky man when Zimbabwe began their reply, given out caught at first slip by Rahul Dravid off the bowling of Harbhajan Singh. Umpire Asoka de Silva clearly missed the fact that the ball pitched well ahead of Dravid. It was a sad dismissal and another glaring mistake by the umpire.
Harbhajan Singh went on to remove Alistair Campbell (2) and Andy Flower (0) in one over to reduce Zimbabwe to 42/3 at lunch. Zimbabwe were looking to consolidate after the luncheon break with Stuart Carlisle and Dion Ebrahim in the middle. In an effort to swap the ends of the two spinners, Ganguly brought on Zaheer Khan to bowl one over, and interestingly he bowled left-arm spin.
The plan worked as Harbhajan Singh, in his first over after changing ends, flung himself full length and took a good catch, somehow managing to keep the ball close to his chest after a rebound, to dismiss the Zimbabwe skipper Carlsile (22). The `Turbanator' had done the trick by picking up the first four wickets to fall.
At the other end, Anil Kumble kept wheeling his arm over without much luck. Das put down a simple catch at short leg to give Ebrahim a reprieve off Kumble's bowling. There was unbound agony for Kumble as he watched in dismay, Dasgupta putting down a catch offered by Grant Flower. The Bengal stumper's chances of retaining a spot in the Indian team must have disappeared with that error.
Kumble was a much relieved man when Asoka de Silva finally upheld an appeal for lbw against Ebrahim (22), who did not offer a shot. There was no such joy against Heath Streak though; De Silva turned down a very close shout for lbw. Two balls later, Streak (9) was indeed given out lbw, for the ball was going to hit the middle stump.
Travis Friend (0) was cleaned up by Harbhajan Singh and Tatenda Taibu (10) was caught by Sanjay Bangar at gully off the bowling of Kumble. Price (3) fell to a bat-pad catch at short leg by Das off Kumble. Grant Flower played a good hand, striking six boundaries while making 49 runs.
Virender Sehwag's injury was one of the twists in this extraordinary day of Test cricket. Trying to take a catch at mid-wicket to dismiss Flower, he fell heavily on his left shoulder, injuring it. The injury could keep Sehwag out of action for a couple of weeks.
Flower finally fell, caught by Harbhajan Singh at the deep mid-wicket fence off the bowling of Anil Kumble. Harbhajan Singh was easily the most successful bowler (31-5-62-6). Anil Kumble played the supporting role to perfection, finishing with the figures of 29.3-8-58-4.
Chasing a modest target of 122, India lost Dasgupta (1), brilliantly run out by Taibu, making an acrobatic effort to gather a powerful over-head throw from Streak before dislodging the stumps. The third umpire to whom the decision was referred had no hesitation in ruling the batsman out.
With the crumbling pitch offering big turn and spiteful, uneven bounce, even a score of 100 would have been defended by a Muralitharan or a Harbhajan Singh. All Zimbabwe though had was Raymond Price. The 25-year-old did his best by applying pressure on the Indian skipper.
The introduction of Grant Flower's left-arm spin produced the next wicket. Ganguly (20) paid a heavy price as he played back to the innocuous left-arm spin of the younger Flower, only to be trapped plumb in front. Anil Kumble lost his wicket to the first ball he faced caught by Gripper off Flower for a duck. It was again a bad decision by de Silva as the bat was nowhere near the ball. Tendulkar walked in and denied the younger Flower (3-3-0-2) the pleasure of a Test hat-trick.
With the wicket deteriorating rapidly, the final day's play will be an engrossing one. India, remember, are effectively one man down after Sehwag's injury.
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