Sehwag, Tendulkar put India ahead

KOLKATA: Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar smashed impressive centuries before South Africa fought back with three quick wickets on the second day of the final Test here at the Eden Gardens today.

Sehwag cracked 23 fours and two sixes in his 165 off 174 balls and shared a third-wicket stand of 249 with Tendulkar (106) as India reached 342-5 by close. Venkatsai Laxman (nine) and Amit Mishra (one) were at the crease when stumps were drawn for the day, with India leading South Africa's 296 by 46 runs with five wickets in hand.

India, who lost the first Test in Nagpur by an innings and six runs, need a win to square the series and retain their No 1 position in the official Test rankings. The hosts were cruising at 331-2 when Sehwag, Tendulkar and Subramaniam Badrinath (one) were dismissed in the space of five runs towards the end of the day's play.

Sehwag mis-timed a drive in part-time spinner Jean-Paul Duminy's first over, Tendulkar was caught in the slips off Paul Harris and Badrinath was bowled by Dale Steyn. Sehwag completed his second century of the series in style, cutting Wayne Parnell (0-61) to the point boundary for his 19th Test century and the fifth against South Africa.

Tendulkar joined in the run feast, hitting his 47th Test century and the fourth in successive matches after making 105 and 143 in Bangladesh and 100 in the Nagpur Test. Tendulkar hit 12 fours in his 206-ball knock. But it was the belligerent Sehwag who stole the show, smashing fast bowler Steyn (1-66) for three fours in a row, before dishing out similar treatment to Morne Morkel (1-80).

Parnell was not spared either as Sehwag drove the fast bowler to the covers for a four and followed it up by smashing a six to the third-man boundary. The opener then pulled left-arm spinner Harris (1-97) for the second six of his entertaining knock.

South Africa had a chance to dismiss Sehwag on 47 but Duminy grassed a sitter off Morkel at first slip. The batsman was let off for the second time on 129 when AB de Villiers, keeping wicket in place of an injured Mark Boucher, missed an easy stumping chance off Harris. Harris conceded 12 wides as he bowled outside the leg-stump to contain the run flow.

South Africa tasted early success when Gautam Gambhir was run out as he went for a sharp second run on Sehwag's call. He hit three fours in his 25, sharing an opening stand of 73 with Sehwag. Murali Vijay (seven) edged Morkel behind the wicket, where de Villiers took a fine catch diving to his right.

Earlier, Zaheer Khan (4-90) ended the South African innings when he trapped Parnell (12) leg-before wicket in the fourth over of the day after the visitors resumed at the overnight 266-9.