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Rediff.com  » Cricket » Harbhajan's blitz turns the tide in India's favour

Harbhajan's blitz turns the tide in India's favour

Last updated on: November 14, 2010 17:27 IST

Scorecard:

A quickfire 85 not out by Harbhajan Singh helped India build on their first innings lead over New Zealand on the third day of the second Test at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Uppal on Sunday.

At stumps on day three (after 134 overs), the home team had made 436 for nine, for an overall lead of 86 runs.

Giving him company at close of play was S Sreesanth on 14, the duo having put together 69 runs for the final wicket, a partnership which not only frustrated New Zealand but wrested the initiative back from them - after they had had India on the mat at 367 for nine at one stage.

It was India's best ever partnership for the final wicket against New Zealand, besting the 57-run stand put together by Ramakant Desai and Bishen Singh Bedi at Dunedin way back in 1968.

It was Harbhajan's ninth Test fifty and his third successive significant contribution to the Indian cause in the series. His contributions in the last three innings he has played are his three best efforts with the bat in his Test career.

Harbhajan SinghThe off-spinner had made 69 and 115 in the opening Test at Motera helping India draw the game.

His 82-ball knock was inclusive of seven hits to the fence and five huge ones over it.

And his rearguard action action helped rule out one probability out of the equation as regards the match: New Zealand can no longer win the match.

They will now be playing catch up in the final two days and can, at best, save the Test. In other words, ensuring a result in this match is very much in India's hands.

Before Harbhajan's blitz at the end India had scored at a disappointing rate in the first two sessions.

And to their credit, New Zealand had fought hard and managed to stay in the game despite that 160-run opening wicket stand on day two.

Their commitment with the ball and in the field was exemplary to say the least. And to an extent, they were also helped in their endeavour by the home team.

The runs were hard to come by for the home team with New Zealand bowlers maintain a tight line throughout and captain Daniel Vettori making some innovative field placements. It resulted in wickets coming at regular intervals.

However, India's last wicket stand undid all their previous efforts.

Suffice to say the visitors dominated the first two sessions, thereby keeping themselves in the game. Harbhajan helped India dominate the final session and take the game away from them.

Morning session: (59 runs, 30 overs, 1 wicket)

Daniel Vettori struck early on day three, taking the vital wicket of Sachin Tendulkar (13), to put India on the backfoot.

The Master Blaster had survived a run out appeal in the day's first ball and the New Zealand captain's ploy of setting an attacking field - thereby asking the batsman to take the risk - worked as regards Tendulkar.

Trying to hit against the spin, Tendulkar fell to a terrific reflex catch by Ross Taylor at first slip.

It was the fifth occasion that Vettori had taken Tendulkar's wicket in Tests. The Kiwi captain was the second spinner - after Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan (eight times) - to dismiss the Master Blaster on so many occasions in Tests.

The Kiwi tactics seemed to work early on, the first seven overs of the day yielding just nine runs for the home team and a vital wicket for the visitors.

Then VVS Laxman, playing in front of his home fans for the first time in 116 Tests, eased the proceedings a bit with a couple of boundaries of Martin, the first caressed through covers and the second pulled to the square leg.

The local favourite and Dravid then slowly but steadily began to rebuild the innings, putting up an unbeaten 50-plus partnership for the fourth wicket in the process.

After 79 overs (at lunch), the home team had made 237 for three, still 117 runs adrift of the visitors' first innings total.

Post-lunch session: (86 runs, 25 overs, 2 wickets)

The second new ball was taken immediately after lunch.

Dravid started the second session on a cracking note, hitting Arnel's first ball between cover and mid-off for what was his fourth boundary of the innings.

The fifth came in the next over, Martin's short ball hit past the gully.

Laxman joined the party with two boundaries in an Arnel over, the first a flick towards mid-on and then a cracking cover drive two balls later.

In the ball bowled in between, the Hyderabad batsman survived an appeal for a catch.

Dravid was eventually dismissed after frustrating New Zealand with some resolute batting. He was trapped in front by a determined Tim Southee, in the same over when he had survived a similar appeal earlier.

Dravid's 144-ball 45 was inclusive of four hits to the fence and he put on a 75-run partnership for the fourth wicket with Laxman.

The latter, meanwhile reached his half century guiding a Southee delivery to the fine-leg fence. It was Laxman's 48th Test fifty, his sixth against New Zealand.  

Raina, who had begun his innings with successive boundaries off Southee, survived a stumping chance off Vettori. The left-hander celebrated the same by steering the bowler through gully for his third boundary.

However, Raina's extravagance cost him his wicket.

With Vettori inviting him to go for big shots Raina inexplicable hit straight to Guptill at deep midwicket, one of the fielders placed for the purpose.  

Raina and Laxman put on 52 runs for the fifth wicket in quick time - just 71 balls before the former gifted his wicket.

Dhoni announced his arrival smashing Southee to a boundary over point.

After 103 overs (at tea), the home team had made 323 for five, just 27 runs adrift of the visitors' first innings total.

Post-tea session: (113 runs, 31 overs, 4 wickets)

Chris Martin struck in the first over after tea removing the dangerous VVS Laxman to give New Zealand renewed hope

Laxman made a resolute 74 in what was his first Test at home in his long and illustrious career. However, he failed to add to his score after tea, Martin trapping him plumb in front.

Laxman's 160-ball knock was inclusive of 11 hits to the fence.

In came Harbhajan Singh and he started from where he had left off in Motera, hitting successive boundaries off Vettori.

However, the New Zealand skipper had the last laugh in the over, accounting for his opposite number.

MS Dhoni (14) hit straight to Brendon McCullum to give Vettori his fourth wicket of the innings. Harbhajan hit a couple of boundaries off Martin to ease the pressure a bit.

And Zaheer Khan (7) hit a boundary off Martin over cover to help the home team take the lead.

However, Zaheer was out soon after, hitting a Southee bouncer straight to Arnel at fine-leg. His dismissal left India's bowling spearhead six runs short of the 1, 000 Test runs mark.

Soon after Zaheer's dismissal came some showers to interrupt the proceedings for a brief while.

After play resumed, Harbhajan pulled Southee over square-leg for a maximum, his first and the second of the Indian innings.

Pragyan Ojha (0) was run out in the next over. However, Harbhajan hit successive sixes off Vettori, both over long-on, in a last ditch effort to extend India's lead to the maximum and get to hsi third successive 50-plus score. 

He soon reached his third straight fifty of the series.

And then helped India inch past the 400-run mark with a six over square-leg boundary off Arnel.

However, it was Sreesanth who helped bring on the 50-run partnership for the final wicket, driving Taylor to the covers boundary. He celebrated the same with a boundary past point in the next ball.

The duo's last wicket partnership negated all the hard work done by New Zealand earlier in the day.

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