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Dravid, Zaheer put India on top

Faisal Shariff | October 09, 2003 12:15 IST
Last Updated: October 09, 2003 18:36 IST


A devastating spell of fast bowling by Zaheer Khan destroyed the New Zealand top order.

Rahul DravidThe visitors ended day 2 of the first Test against India at 41 for 3, fighting to save the follow-on, in reply to India's mammoth score of 500 for 5 declared.

Zaheer Khan picked all the three wickets for 17 runs,openers Mark Richardson and Lou Vincent, and skipper Stephen Fleming fallingcheaply.

The Kiwi counter-attack had been countered.

Earlier, Rahul Dravid scored his third double century as India batted New Zealand out of the first Test.

Dravid was well-supported by skipper Sourav Ganguly.

Morning session

India went into lunchon 320 for 4, withDravid, on 152, eyeing another double century andGanguly weaving a 50-run partnership with him.

The Kiwis tasted success just once all morning, claiming the wicket of VVS Laxman, who scored 64 before holing out to Paul Wiseman, off the bowling of left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori.

Laxman, the artist, and Dravid, the breadwinner, had bailed India out of trouble yesterday with an exemplary lesson in batting on the slow sub-continental tracks. This morning, it was a matter of ensuring that India did not lose any wickets, and the Laxman-Dravid juggernaut threatened to carry on their good form.

Dravid greeted the Kiwis with a crisp cover drive while Laxman kept flicking the balls at astonishing angles. Laxman fails to do anything without elegance.

The Kiwis, however, did well to dry up the runs with defensive fields and it proved fatal for Laxman.

Unable to resist the flight Daniel Vettori offered him this morning, Laxman danced down the wicket and smashed the left-arm spinner to Paul Wiseman at mid-on. It ended his 147-ball 64 and with it the 130-run partnership with Dravid.

The talking point from day one of the Test was skipper Ganguly dropping himself down to number six and promoting VVS Laxman to five.

Indeed, Ganguly needs to be praised for the decision instead of being criticised. If the skipper believed that Laxman was in better nick and deserved the promotion, why must it be used against him?

This morning, television commentators suggested that Ganguly's superstitious nature forced him to come down at number six. To my mind, the suggestion was in poor taste, because it shows the Indian skipper in bad light.

Why would a national captain alter team strategy to accommodate some superstitious suggestions?

Ganguly walked out and had his bat width measured by the umpires during the drinks break. Unfortunately, for all those hoping for a controversy to explode, his bat met the ICC requirements of 4 inches. From then on, he tormented the Kiwis.

He cut Scott Styris to the fence for four and then mistimed Styris with a short arm jab, which fell in no-man's land. Determined to counter the short-pitched recipe from the Kiwis, Ganguly swayed away, ducked and even pulled Oram to the mid-wicket fence after getting a measure of the wicket.

Minutes before lunch, Dravid got his 150, the sixth time he has past the 150-run mark in his career (445 minutes, 299 balls, 18 fours).

Dravid might not have the grace of Laxman, but he has the ability to grind his opponents out of the contest with his unending reserves of persistence. While Chopra and Laxman fell trying to take on Vettori, Dravid watched him closely and refused to bite the bait.

Dravid has spades of ability and the discipline to get tall scores. After realising that the Kiwi challenge, barring Vettori, is wafer-thin, he dug deep to make certain he got a big score.

Skipper Stephen Fleming fiddled with his field placements, which were at best radical, but failed to bear results.

The Kiwi bowlers managed go for the better part of the day without giving away any extras. But with India going in to lunch at 320 for 4, and Rahul Dravid on 152 eyeing another double century, things look far from good for New Zealand.

Post-lunch session:

The Test is four sessions old and India has batted through all of them. Yet, the crowds just haven't turned up at the Sardar Patel stadium in Motera. To have just 1000-odd spectators on day one of the Test at a stadium, which is second only to the Eden Gardens in capacity, is more frightening than anything. There were more spectators during the domestic Challenger Series in Bangalore than on the first two days in Motera.

That of course did not fluster Dravid, who batted with the concentration of a monk, heading towards his third double-century.

Paul Wiseman and Vettori began the post-lunch session, desperate to get a breakthrough but to no avail. Six bowling changes in the morning session by Fleming failed to make any serious dent in the Indian batting. The Kiwis were hoping to get 2-3 quick wickets and get back into the game, but with only one wicket coming their way, Fleming will definitely be thinking of playing out a draw.

Dravid, growing in confidence and seeing the ball as big as a melon, smashed Wiseman straight over his head for a four and then swept him through mid-wicket for another boundary. Another hundred-run partnership put the match beyond New Zealand's reach. Ganguly soon swept the ball for a boundary and reached his half-century - his first since the Oval Test against England in September last year. Once he crossed the milestone, the pressure was off and Ganguly was in his element, smashing Wiseman through the covers for a boundary and then hoisting Styris over mid-wicket for another boundary.

Dravid then etched his name into the history books with his third double century when he flicked an over-pitched delivery from Styris through mid-wicket for four. The double ton, off 365 deliveries, put Dravid behind only Sunil Gavaskar, who has four double centuries.

Dravid seems to have graduated from being a good player to a great player over the last two years. He has proved that he is one of the leading number three batsmen in world cricket.

Ganguly finally stepped out and lofted Vettori for six as India went in to tea at 438-4.

India should be looking to declare after batting another 30 minutes after tea and then asking the weary Kiwis to bat for the rest of the evening.

The Indian batsmen have done their job for the team; it is now up to the bowlers to get 20 wickets over the next two days and win the Test.

Post-tea session:

Dravid's epic knock was finally terminated on 222, soon after tea, when he nicked one from Jacob Oram to Robbie Hart behind the wicket. His 387-ball essay, laced with 28 boundaries, was his career-best score and punctured the hopes of the Kiwis, who are on a mission to create history by winning a Test series in India.

Soon after, Ganguly got into a duel with umpire Rudi Kuertzen, who pulled up the Indian skipper for running on the wicket. As both the umpires had earlier cautioned the Indian skipper for running on the wicket, Kurtzen finally nullified a couple of runs scored by him.

An argument ensued and the decision did not go down very well with the Indian skipper. Ganguly ran way off the pitch after that, an act that could call for an appointment with the match-referee this evening. When at the non-striker's end, Ganguly stood a good distance away from Kuertzen.

The crowd, however, was more interested in welcoming their local hero, Parthiv Patel, to the crease. Playing his maiden Test in India and on home ground, Patel found the fence with ease. In the team's interest to look for quick runs, Patel threw caution to the wind and tore into the Kiwi bowlers. With every short ball, a vein opened in the youngster as he went for broke. He was particularly severe on Oram, smashing him for three boundaries in one over, which had a brilliant checked straight drive.

How did this kid crash the party? That's what the Kiwi bowlers must be wondering after having suffered at the hands of reputed Indian batsmen.

Ganguly clinically went after the Vettori, hoisting him for sixes and making him look mediocre. He declared the innings as soon as he reached his tenth Test hundred, with the Indian total reading 500 for 5.

Patel scored 29 off 24 balls, with five fours, and put together a 54-run partnership with his skipper. The youngster yet again demonstrated that he is the first choice wicketkeeper for the Indian Test team.

New Zealand first innings:

Zaheer Khan cleaned up the Kiwi top order in a devastating spell of fast bowling. Despite the wicket not offering any movement, he varied his length and got the top three Kiwi batsmen -- Richardson, Vincent and skipper Fleming.

Khan forced Richardson to drag one onto his stumps and sent his off stump cart-wheeling out of the ground.

A few days before the Test, Zaheer had told this reporter that Richardson would be the key batsman he would target in the Kiwi batting line up - (11-1).

Five runs later, Vincent, beaten by the ball angled across to him, edged a delivery and Parthiv Patel took a low, sharp catch in front of first slip.

But the left-armer saved his best delivery for the Kiwi skipper. Pitching outside off, Zaheer cut the ball back in and Fleming shouldered arms to the delivery, which knocked his off-stump out.

The Kiwis ended day two at 41-3.

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