Wicket-keeper Mahendra Dhoni and skipper Rahul Dravid hit contrasting centuries to pull India out of trouble in the second Test against Pakistan at the Iqbal stadium here on Monday.
Dhoni smashed 116 not out off 123 balls for his maiden century and Dravid scored a patient 103 as India posted 441-5 in their first innings by stumps on the third day.
When play was called off five overs early due to bad light, Dhoni and Irfan Pathan (49 not out) were together at the crease with India 147 runs behind Pakistan's total of 588.
Dhoni, whose previous best Test score was 51, remained unfazed after Pakistan grabbed four quick wickets in the post-lunch session to reduce India to 281-5 chasing a follow-on target of 389.
Dhoni batted with authority to spare India's blushes during a defiant 160-run stand for the unbfoken sixth wicket with Pathan to consolidate the good work by Dravid and Venkatsai Laxman.
India were comfortably placed at lunch on 227-1 but lost Laxman (90), Dravid, Yuvraj Singh (four) and Sachin Tendulkar (14) in the space of 45 runs in a dramatic collapse.
"It was a good performance under pressure and I am happy my players showed courage and character after we were in a bit of trouble," said Dravid.
"I think Dhoni played one of the best innings under pressure and did not hesitate to attack the bowling.
"It should help him gain confidence for the future.
"There are still 180 overs left in the game and in this part of the world the match changes quickly," said Dravid.
Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer said a draw was the most likely option.
"We need to get the remaining five wickets soon if Pathan and Dhoni continue to bat well, the game will end in draw," said Woolmer.
Dravid and Laxman put on 197 runs for the second wicket to deny Pakistan a breakthrough in the extended two-and-half-hour morning after resuming the day on 110-1.
Leg-spinner Danish Kaneria provided the break in the third over of the second session when he had Laxman caught behind by wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal off an attempted cut.
Laxman, 28 overnight, hit 11 boundaries during his four-and-half-hour stay at the crease.
Dravid, who resumed at 46, cut leg-spinner Shahid Afridi to point for his 16th boundary to complete his 22nd Test hundred but two overs later he failed to beat a direct throw from substitute Imran Farhat from square-leg and was run out.
Pakistan claimed the second new ball as soon as it was due in the 81st over and met with success when paceman Mohammad Asif forced Yuvraj to hook straight into the hands of deep fine-leg.
Shoaib Akhtar, bowling at hostile pace, had Tendulkar caught behind by Akmal as the batsman fended a short-pitched delivery.
At 281-5, India were in a spot of bother but Dhoni took the attack to the Pakistani bowlers in the last session, reaching the three-figure mark with a punched drive off Akhtar for his 12th boundary.
Dhoni, who has so far hit 14 fours and four sixes, and Pathan surpassed India's previous sixth-wicket record stand of 143 against Pakistan by Mohammad Azharuddin and Kapil Dev in Calcutta (now Kolkata) in 1986-87.
(Article: Copyright © 2006 AFP)
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