India’s tail wagged on the first day of the third and deciding Test against New Zealand here on Friday to ensure the tourists reached a respectable 375 for nine at stumps.
Half centuries from captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh in the bottom half of the order added to Sachin Tendulkar’s 95th score over 50 as India recovered from 204 for six soon after tea.
The stakes are high for both teams with India desperate not to squander their 1-0 lead in the three match series and miss out on their first series win in New Zealand since 1968.
India picked up the pace in the final session, adding 185 runs for the loss of four wickets, with the tailenders riding their luck in an aggressive show of defiance during the final hour.
Harbhajan finished with the second top score of 60 from 78 balls and importantly put on 79 runs with Dhoni (52), who was returning from a back injury that kept him sidelined in the drawn second Test.
“It was crucial to contribute lower down the order and if you look at the scoreboard we have got some decent runs,” Harbhajan said of the “fantastic” rearguard action.
New Zealand allrounder James Franklin admitted the Kiwis had probably allowed India 50 or 60 runs too many on the day.
“They got away with a few lucky shots and the ball didn’t quite go to hand so sometimes that’s the way it can be with the tail,” he told reporters.
But he added he thought the game remained evenly balanced.
“As long as we can get that (last Indian) wicket quickly tomorrow and set about batting for a day and a half to two days and that sets the game up well for us.”
In a day of fluctuating fortunes, New Zealand’s bowlers toiled hard on a batting-friendly pitch as captain Daniel Vettori gambled the best chance for a series-tying victory was to bowl first.
When the sixth wicket fell shortly after tea with barely 200 runs on the board, it appeared the gamble had paid off.
But the story of the afternoon was illustrated by a single Iain O’Brien over in which Zaheer Khan smashed consecutive fours from the first four balls.
He was nearly caught on the fifth and the last was a bouncer which he fended to wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum, ending with 33 runs from 23 balls.
Opening bowler Chris Martin toiled hard all day to finish the best of the New Zealand attack with figures of three for 95 from 24 overs, while Tim Southee and Iain O’Brien took two wickets each.
India got off to a flying start through a quickfire 48 from Virender Sehwag and the “Little Master” Tendulkar appeared set to take the attack apart before his dismissal for 62.
His departure in the 42nd over signalled a mini-collapse after he put on 90 runs with Rahul Dravid for the third wicket.
Four wickets fell for the addition of 39 runs as India slid from 165 for two.
Sehwag and partner Gautam Gambhir earlier put on 73 runs in the first 15 overs as Vettori’s strategy of bowling first appeared to backfire, with 20-year-old Southee hit for 48 runs from his first seven overs.
O’Brien dismissed Sehwag in his second over, tempting the batsman to jab at a short ball outside the off stump, with wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum taking a comfortable catch.
The replacement of Martin by Franklin at the other end in the next over also paid off immediately, with Gambhir trapped lbw for 23 on the final ball of the new bowler’s opening over.
Tendulkar passed 50 for the 95th time in Tests in his innings, hitting 11 fours, including his trademark drives and cuts, bringing up his half century with a beautifully timed square cut off O’Brien after lunch in the 38th over.
His dismissal for the day’s top score of 62 brought on a mini-collapse with VVS Laxman and Yuvraj Singh soon departing.
Martin’s second victim was Rahul Dravid, who mistimed a pull shot to Franklin at square leg to leave India six down.
Martin was unlucky 24 runs later when Martin Guptill put down a difficult but ultimately costly chance at gully when Harbhajan was on 14.
New Zealand won toss
India 1st innings
G Gambhir lbw Franklin 23
V Sehwag c McCullum b O’Brien 48
R Dravid c Franklin b Martin 35
S R Tendulkar c McCullum b Martin 62
V V S Laxman c McIntosh b Southee 4
Yuvraj Singh lbw Ryder 9
*M S Dhoni c O’Brien b Southee 52
Harbhajan Singh c Vettori b Martin 60
Z Khan c McCullum b O’Brien 33
I Sharma not out 15
M M Patel not out 14
Extras (b2,lb8, w3, nb7) 20
Total (9 wickets, 90 overs) 375
Fall: 1-73, 2-75, 3-165, 4-173, 5-182, 6-204, 7-283, 8-315, 9-347
Bowling: Martin 24-3-95-3; Southee 18-1-94-2; O’Brien 21-3-88-2; Franklin 14-4-38-1; Vettori 9-1-47-0; Ryder 4-2-3-1
New Zealand: T G McIntosh, M J Guptill, D R Flynn, L R P L Taylor, J D Ryder, J E C Franklin, B B McCullum, *D L Vettori (capt), T G Southee, I E O’Brien, C S Martin
Series: India lead 3-Test series 1-0
Umpires: D J Harper (Australia), S J A Taufel (Australia). TV umpire: A L Hill (New Zealand). Match referee: A G Hurst (Australia)
Previous matches: March 18-21 1st Test Hamilton, India won by ten wickets. March 26-30 2nd Test Napier, match drawn
Source:Cricket NewsMore on:Harbhajan Singh, India, James Franklin, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, New Zealand, Sachin Tendulkar
Share on Twitter | StumbleUpon | Del.icio.us | Digg | Facebook
Thank you for reading this post. You can now Leave A Comment (0) or Leave A Trackback.
Post InfoThis entry was posted on Sunday, April 5th, 2009 and is filed under General, Cricket.
Previous Post: Flintoff hat-trick seals the series »
Next Post: Rival captains say IPL won’t distract players »
Read MoreRelated Reading:
- Hopeful Lee turns up in South Africa
- Pakistan picks ICL players for World Twenty20
- Ponting asks batsmen to lift
- No place for Strauss in England’s Twenty20 squad
- Powell axed for England tour
- Injury forces Jerome Taylor out of IPL
- Parnell and Steyn crush Australia
- Flintoff hopes to gain from IPL ahead of big summer
- Shah Rukh Khan lashes back at Gavaskar
- Morris wants coach search settled by May 6