India have a good chance of a three-day victory in the First Test match at the Queen's Sports Club in Bulawayo, as after day two Zimbabwe had lost three second-innings wickets and were still 66 runs behind.

India began the day 90 runs behind Zimbabwe's first-innings total of 173 with seven wickets in hand. Night-watchman Javagal Srinath (1) flicked the second ball of the day towards square leg, only for Guy Whittall to take a superb diving catch to his left. Then Sourav Ganguly (5) was adjudged to have edged a rising delivery from Heath Streak to wicket-keeper Andy Flower, and India were 98 for five.

However, two master batsmen were still there in Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. They set themselves to blunt the Zimbabwe attack and seldom looked in any difficulty. They were soon scoring at more than four an over without ever looking to be in a hurry. Tendulkar's fifty took 106 balls and for once Dravid took most of the limelight with his classic drives and pulls. Then Andy Blignaut came on to bowl and Tendulkar helped himself to three boundaries in his erratic first over.

However, it was Blignaut who broke through, as just before lunch Tendulkar (74) slashed at a ball moving away outside off stump and Stuart Carlisle at second slip hurled himself to his right to hold a brilliant catch. India had just taken the lead and at the interval were 179 for six.

After lunch a good partnership again seemed to be developing as Dravid and Sameer Dighe picked up runs steadily. The Blignaut again surprised everyone by taking a wicket; Dravid (44), after hitting two exquisite fours in an over, was perhaps over-eager for a third and skied a catch to Flower behind the stumps. At 208 for seven, India had only the tail to come.

Dighe and Harbhajan Singh were not deterred, though, and hit out merrily, especially the latter. The Zimbabwe attack, lacking Olonga with an injury, was unable to make any impression. Finally Streak did the trick with the second new ball, dismissing Dighe for 47, caught down the leg side off a bad ball. The partnership of 72 may yet prove to be the turning point of the match as it turned a moderately small lead into a very significant one. Once again Zimbabwe conceded a major eighth-wicket partnership, a frequent habit in recent years.

This was just before tea was due, and in the same over Streak produced a much better delivery to bowl Zahir Khan (0) off the inside edge, resulting in a delay of the interval. Harbhajan went on to reach his fifty, and the last pair survived half an hour until tea. Off the last ball before the interval, Brighton Watambwa took a superb diving return catch off bat and pad off Harbhajan, only to have umpire Harper erroneously rule it not out.

Shortly after the interval, Watambwa fumbled a return to miss a clear run-out opportunity. He got his wicket the same over, though, when Singh (66 off 71 balls) top-edged a pull to be caught at mid-on. India totalled 318, a lead of 145. Streak and Watambwa took three wickets each.

When Zimbabwe went in again, Whittall cut a couple of boundaries over the slips, but Dion Ebrahim struggled and failed to score before being caught at short leg without scoring. On current evidence, it seems to have been a misguided effort to turn this young middle-order batsman into an opener, and he showed in the Academy match how short of confidence he is at present.

Zimbabwe almost suffered the incredible bad luck of falling foul of cricket's most unfair law twice in the same match when Carlisle played a beautiful straight drive that glanced the stumps at the bowler's end on its way to the boundary with Whittall probably out of his crease; fortunately Nehra's groping hand just failed to touch it.

Whittall continued to play positively, but on 20 he cut once too often and was brilliantly caught low in the gully by Sadagoppan Ramesh. At 34 for two, Zimbabwe were in deep trouble. Carlisle and Alistair Campbell fought with determination until the latter was caught at short leg off Harbhajan for 16. At close, Zimbabwe were 79 for three, with Carlisle on 27 and night-watchman Brian Murphy 10.

Play finished 55 minutes late this time, a real indictment of both the players and the ICC who are quite incapable of enforcing acceptable over rates.