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Rediff.com  » Cricket » Auckland Test in the balance after bowlers lead India's fightback

Auckland Test in the balance after bowlers lead India's fightback

Last updated on: February 08, 2014 12:51 IST

The Indian players celebrate the run out of Brendon McCullumShikhar Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara guided India to 87 for one to leave the first Test against New Zealand, at Eden Park, in Auckland, delicately poised at the end of a tumultuous third day, after their bowlers had given them a faint sniff of victory, on Saturday.

- Scorecard

India were bowled out for 202 before lunch, but not asked to follow-on. Their bowlers then dismissed New Zealand in the final session for 105 in the second innings, giving them a victory target of 407 runs.

Tim Southee claimed the only wicket to fall in India's second innings, when Murali Vijay (13) got a faint touch to a leg-side delivery and wicketkeeper BJ Watling held a diving catch.

Dhawan, who had earlier looked like he was trying to slog his way out of a poor run of form, settled down to finish the day unbeaten on 49, while Pujara was on 22.

India needs 320 runs more in two days to complete a remarkable victory.

Resuming the third day on 130 for four, India came up with a disappointing batting performance and were bundled out for 202, thereby conceding a huge first innings lead of 301 runs.

New Zealand took a surprising decision of not enforcing the follow-on, hoping to set India a massive target, but the gamble backfired, as the tourists bounced back brilliantly and bundled out the Kiwis for 105 runs in 41.2 overs on an eventful third day, which saw as many as 17 wickets tumble for 264 runs.

Ross Taylor was the top-scorer for the hosts with 41, which came off 73 balls, including five boundaries and a six, but the rest of the batsmen perished cheaply.

Pacers Mohammed Shami (3/38) and Ishant Sharma (3/28) caused the maximum damage, while Zaheer Khan (2/23) scalped two wickets to bring India back in the contest.

The West Indies hold the incredible record of chasing 418 against Australia in May 2003, at St John's. Only thrice a target in excess of 400 has been chased till date.

India are second in the list with the successful chase of 406 runs against the Caribbean side, but it was way back in 1976.

Australia are the third team to record victory while chasing a 400-plus score, when they scored 404 against England in 1976.

The Indians took four wickets in the morning session and New Zealand never recovered from those early jolts. It was Shami who triggered the collapse with the wickets of both openers.

He trapped Hamish Rutherford leg before for a first-ball duck in the very first over of the innings and, two overs later, had Peter Fulton (5) caught at cover by Ravindra Jadeja, who was sensational in the field.

Jadeja then took a blinder at short mid-wicket to send back the in-form Kane Williamson (3) off Zaheer. It was the first time that the right-hander was dismissed cheaply in seven innings, including the five-match ODI series.

Jadeja then played his part in another dismissal when he caused the run-out of Kiwi captain Brendon McCullum (1) in another brilliant fielding display. McCullum was earlier given a lifeline when Vijay dropped an easy catch at first slip.

New Zealand were tottering at 15 for four at the lunch break and things got worse in the post-lunch session, courtesy Shami, who the Kiwis found too hot to handle. He bowled Corey Anderson through the gate for two to cripple the hosts further.

Taylor looked to steady the innings in the company of B J Watling but was taken by Ajinkya Rahane at gully off Rahane for 41.

Tim Southee hit a few attacking shots before he was caught at mid-wicket off Jadeja for 14. Ishant cleaned up the tail by snapping up the wickets of Ish Sodhi (0) and Neil Wagner, who scored 15.

India had also fared poorly with the bat in their first innings after overnight batsmen Rohit Sharma (72) and Ajinkya Rahane (26) departed in quick succession. Rahane edged to first slip, off Southee, and Rohit perished in the next over, bowled by Trent Boult.

Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni was caught behind off Neil Wagner for 10 while Zaheer also fell to the same bowler for 14 in similar fashion.

Ravindra Jadeja played a few big shots but was left stranded on 30 not out as both Ishant Sharma (0) and Mohammed Shami (2) didn't last long.

For New Zealand, Wagner was the most successful bowler, finishing with 4-64 from 11 overs. He found ample support from Boult (3-38) and Southee (3-38).

Image: The Indian players celebrate the run-out of Brendon McCullum.

Photograph: Phil Walter/Getty Images