Rain interrupts India victory charge

KOLKATA: Bad weather brought brief respite to South Africa as India pressed for a series-levelling victory in the second and final cricket Test on Wednesday.

The tourists, trailing by 347 runs on the first innings, lost three key wickets on the rain-curtailed fourth day to stutter to 115-3 in their second knock by stumps at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata.

Just 34.1 overs were sent down during the day as a wet outfield caused by overnight rain delayed the start by 90 minutes and overcast conditions interrupted play regularly.

In the brief period of action, leg-spinner Amit Mishra sent back skipper Graeme Smith (20) and Jacques Kallis (20), and Harbhajan Singh dismissed Alviro Petersen.

Hashim Amla was unbeaten on 49 and Ashwell Prince had yet to score when the umpires finally called off play for the day.

India, which lost the first Test in Nagpur by an innings and six runs, will hope for a clear day on Thursday as they attempt to draw the series and retain their number one Test ranking.

The second-ranked South Africa will take over from India if the match ends in a draw, giving the Proteas a 1-0 series win.

South Africa still trail by 232 runs with seven wickets in hand.

India declared their first innings on a mammoth 643-6, built on centuries by Virender Sehwag (165), Venkatsai Laxman (143 not out), Mahendra Singh Dhoni (132 not out) and Sachin Tendulkar (106).

Smith and Petersen played with caution after resuming at the overnight total of 6-0, when Mishra was brought into attack in the 13th over.

Mishra struck off his first delivery, trapping Smith in front of the wicket to cap a miserable outing for the South African skipper in the series. Smith scored just 30 runs in three innings.

Off-spinner Harbhajan gave India the breakthrough in the post-lunch session when he got rid of first-innings centurion Petersen (21) in his second over after the break.

The debutant opener was foxed by a delivery that found the inside edge of his bat and popped up to short-leg where Subramaniam Badrinath took a head-high catch on second attempt.

Kallis shaped up to defend against Mishra, but offered an outside edge to Mahendra Singh Dhoni behind the stumps. He shared 57 runs for the third wicket with Amla.

The Test series will be followed by three one-day internationals at Jaipur (Feb 21), Gwalior (Feb 24) and Ahmedabad (Feb 27).