With efficient display of batting by Tendulkar (62), Dhoni (52), Harbhajan (60), India managed to pile up 375 runs on Day 1 of the final Test against the Kiwis.
New Zealand pacer Chris Martin clinched Harbhajan’s wicket through an easy catch by Vettori. Earlier, Harbhajan played brilliant innings to hit a timely 7th Test half-century of his career.
Tim Southee removed India skipper MS Dhoni (52) with a bouncer soon after he completed his 15th Test fifty. While, Quickie Chris Martin broke Rahul Dravid’s resistance (35 off 114 balls) and scalped him with the help of a Franklin catch. By tea break, India had lost three wickets – Tendulkar (62), Laxman (4) and Yuvraj (9) in the second session to get reduced to 190/5.
Buoyed by 1-0 series lead, India’s Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag looked confident as ever and opened the Indian innings while the latter initiated the run-riot on Basin Reserve pitch. Both the batsmen looked at their ease with the bat in the first hour to take India past first fifty runs without any loss of wicket.
Similar to an ODI knock, Sehwag wasted no time to reach close to fifty but fell 2 runs short of it and threw away his wicket, yet again, to O’Brien. McCullum made no mistake behind the wickets to take a neat catch.
Rahul Dravid joined Gambhir at the crease, who is being compared to ‘The Wall’ himself for his brilliant match-saving show in the 2nd Test.
But in the successive over, Gambhir (23) too could not survive for long and was caught plumb by James Franklin. Sachin Tendulkar then came in next to join Dravid batting at 2 runs and batted consciously to take India’s scoreboard to 101/2 in the lunch break.
In-form Tendulkar didn’t disappoint his side and fans this time either and brought up a swift 53rd Test half-century of his career with a stylish four, to somewhat revive the early loss of openers.
When the legendary player looked settled in the middle, Chris Martin struck at the right time to break the blooming Tendulkar-Dravid partnership to scalp the prior. Sachin (58) was sent back in the similar fashion like that of Sehwag. VVS Laxman walked in next to partner Dravid.
With Dravid-Laxman pair at the crease, India expected a sigh of relief but the latter’s early departure added on to their woes. Laxman was removed by Southee with the help of the second slip – McIntosh. He could only add four runs to the total.
Yuvraj Singh was the next man in, who hit a fine fifty by the end of 2nd Test, to take charge along with sticky Dravid. But three overs later, he too followed Laxman back in the pavilion when he was trapped by Jesse Ryder for mere nine runs. India then looked in trouble on 184/5.
New Zealand skipper Daniel Vettori won the toss and put India to bat. For the hosts, Daniel Flynn and Tim Southee made it to the playing eleven while Dhoni, who missed the 2nd Test due to his back injury, stood beside Vettori for the toss to lead India once again.
As much as India are keen to score their first series triumph here since 1967-68, the Kiwis, whose pride has been pricked at home, are equally determined to save the series and win back the support of the disenchanted local fans.
The Kiwis are emboldened by their record at the Basin Reserve track, where they have trounced India in four successive Tests. Though they had huffed and puffed to barely snare four Indian wicket in the second innings at Napier, they believe that they have the ammunition to bowl out the formidable Indian batting twice in this match.
New Zealand team:
Tim McIntosh, Martin Guptill, Daniel Flynn, Ross Taylor, Jesse Ryder, James Franklin, Brendon McCullum (wk), Daniel Vettori (capt), Tim Southee, Iain O’Brien, Chris Martin
Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt & wk), Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel