rain pitches in for battling proteas

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

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

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 bowled during the day as a wet outfield caused by overnight rain delayed the start by 90 minutes and overcast conditions repeatedly interrupted play.

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, who lost the first Test in Nagpur by an innings and six runs, will hope for a clear day today as they attempt to draw the series and retain their No 1 Test ranking. Second-ranked South Africa will take over from India if the match ends in a draw, giving the Proteas a 1-0 series win.

SA still trail by 232 runs with seven wickets in hand, but Kallis is confident all is not lost: "The weather helped us today. The wicket is still good for batting. There is a little bit of a turn.

"The guys have played the spinners well and there is no reason why we can't survive 90-odd overs. If we can keep up the pressure on India, anything can happen."

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). - Sapa-AFP

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