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India toil for another day

Ashish Magotra | October 17, 2003 12:42 IST
Last Updated: October 17, 2003 17:16 IST

Scorecard | Graphical scorecard

The New Zealand batsmen's slow approach on Day 2 of the second Test against India must have baffled the cricket connoisseur. They completely dominated the first two days but refused to go on an all-out attack against a struggling home team. The strategy begs the question: what exactly are the Kiwis looking to achieve?

The visitors were 536 for 5 at close of play, with Craig McMillan on 58 and Robbie Hart on 10, prolonging India's agony.

New Zealand had the opportunity to crush India under the sheer weight of the runs and eke out a result, but the manner in which they have scored the runs might see India escape with a draw, an outcome that seemed highly unlikely at the end of Day 1.

For the second day running, the Indians were lethargic on the field. There were numerous mis-fields and dropped catches and the showing left a lot to be desired. Parthiv Patel's nightmare behind the stumps also continued. His uncertainty behind the stumps was in complete contrast to his brilliant display in the first Test at Ahmedabad as the Indians conceded as many at 21 byes.

The Kiwis should be looking to put the Indians in the first thing on the morrow, as the first hour on the Mohali wicket usually assists the seamers, which should be the best period for Daryl Tuffy and Ian Butler to make a dent in the Indian batting.

Morning session

The proceedings were so dull that one could almost be forgiven for falling asleep. Only 69 runs were scored in the session. The New Zealand batsmen seemed intent on not losing a wicket and at the end of the session were successful in their quest.

The Kiwis though were aided once again by acting India skipper Rahul Dravid. Richardson was the beneficiary of a dropped catch once again. With the score on 286 for 1, the left-hander edged a Kumble delivery to Dravid at first slip. It was a tough chance, but an opportunity all the same.

That was the just about the only chance the Kiwi pair gave the Indians.

Resuming the day on 247-1, they played cautiously but were not afraid to exercise aggresion when a rank bad ball came along. Styris added just 37 runs to his overnight total while Richardson got 27. With the Kiwis, in complete command, one would have expected them to score at a quicker pace.

A lightning quick outfield means that virtually everytime the ball beats the inner field it runs away to the boundary. That should certainly aid the visitors in their effort.

Among the Indian bowlers, Lakshmipathy Balaji was the most impressive. He bowled his heart out and along with Anil Kumble was the only bowler to put some doubt in the bowlers mind.

The Kiwis are completely in charge and only the timing of their declaration is the subject of discussion. They would ideally like to have the Indians bat before the day is through.

At lunch, the visitors were 316 for the loss of one wicket, with Richardson on 129 and Styris giving him good company on 43.

Post-lunch session

The Indian bowlers have been guilty of drifting down the leg-side and that shows in the statistics. Over 60 per cent of the runs have been scored down the leg-side. But, more than anything else, the Indians have missed the in-your-face attitude of Ganguly. Say what you may, the mere presence of the indisposed Indian skipper always lifts the performance and the spirit of this young Indian team.

Dravid tried his best, but unfortunately his best has just not been good enough. While Ganguly revels in trying out the unorthodox, Dravid prefers sticking to the established norm. For a Kiwi team that is renowned for the planning they bring to their game, Dravid's approach was like bringing cattle to the fodder. He waited for the batsmen to make mistakes while Ganguly would have made changes of his own in a bid to get a breakthrough.

The post-lunch session saw the Kiwis at long last go after the bowling. The intention and the execution was perfect. Mark Richardson and Scott Styris had clearly received instructions from the dressing room during lunch to move on and they did not disappoint. In the first four overs after lunch, the duo scored at almost 7.00 runs per over as the visitors tried to get their innings run-rate to above three an over.

The score reached 382 without much ado before Richardson was dismissed. The left-hander lofted Harbhajan from outside the leg-stump but only succeeded in finding Kumble at long leg. He scored his highest Test score -- 145, including 20 boundaries.

That brought Stephen Fleming to the wicket and the runs almost immediately began to flow at a brisk rate. Styris, at the other end, continued on his merry way, unaffected by the fall of Richardson's wicket.

On 92, he survived a huge shout for leg-before against Harbhajan. A closer look revealed that the ball was heading down the leg-side. He eventually completed a well-deserved century.

This is the first instance that the top three batsman of a visiting team have scored centuries in the first innings of a Test match.

Fleming got into the act right away and scored 30 off 34 balls, with three fours and a massive six off Harbhajan. He was clean bowled by Sachin Tendulkar, who amazingly got a 62 overs-old ball to swing in the air before crashing into the Kiwi skipper's off-stump.

New Zealand were 433 for three at this stage.

Nathan Astle, who was in next, and Styris quietly played out the overs to usher in tea.

Post-tea session

The final session was a bit of an anti-climax as the visitors scored only 96 runs after piling up 126 post-lunch.

The wicket of Styris was claimed soon after the tea break. With the Kiwi score 447 for 4, Kumble trapped the centurion plumb in front of his stumps to take his wicket tally to three for the innings.

Astle and McMillan then put on 60 for the fifth wicket. While McMillan was his normal self, playing shots all round the wicket, Astle was strangely subdued and scored only 18 off 73 deliveries, when the need of the hour was to score runs quickly.

Wicket-keeper Patel, at long last, managed to hold on to a catch and sent Astle back to the pavilion to reduce the Kiwis to 507 for the loss of 5 wickets.

Thereafter, McMillan and Hart batted with ease to take the total to 536 at the end of play.

This is already the highest total at Mohali, beating the previous best of 515 by India, against Sri Lanka in 1997-98.

Scorecard | Graphical scorecard

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