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Sehwag sets Mohali alight

Ashish Magotra | October 18, 2003 12:24 IST
Last Updated: October 18, 2003 17:58 IST

Scorecard | Graphical scorecard

Aggressive batting in the last session enabled India end day 3 of the second Test against New Zealand on 203 for the loss of one wicket.

Virender Sehwag rediscovered his brutal touch and blazed away to an unbeaten 128, including 16 boundaries and two sixes. Keeping him company at stumps was Rahul Dravid, on 9.

Earlier, New Zealand declared their first innings at 630 for 6.

At his attacking best, Sehwag can give any opposition skipper a headache. Stephen Fleming is no exception. At the start of the day, Fleming said he would like New Zealand to make enough runs so that they do not have to bat again. But if Sehwag attacks and maintains concentration, the Kiwis may well have to.

Among the Kiwi bowlers, Daniel Vettori stood head and shoulders above the rest of his teammates. His figures, 24-14-27-0, bear witness to the control and variation he brought to his bowling.

A more sporting Kiwi declaration would have surely seen the match very interestingly poised. For the moment it appears heading towards a draw, though the Indian batsmen will be out to prove that they are masters at home and, maybe, even tame Vettori along the way.

Morning session

Resuming the day at 536 for 5, the Kiwis quickly rattled up 94 runs in 18.3 overs, with Craig McMillan (100) and Daniel Vettori (48) going for their shots. The morning session though did not start very well for them as they lost the wicket of Robbie Hart quickly. The New Zealand wicket-keeper was trying to sweep Kumble but picked the wrong line and was clean bowled. The Kiwis at this point were 540 for 6.

But the arrival of Vettori was almost god sent for New Zealand. He immediately came out and played his audacious mix of orthodox and unorthodox shots. The scoring rate was pushed up and the Kiwis could finally look forward to getting some quick runs.

Vettori proved his credentials as an all-rounder once again after his match-saving 60 in the first Test at Ahmedabad. In fact, the odd sight of McMillan, the senior batsman, actually taking a single to give Vettori the strike was seen many times during the session.

Vettori ended up with 48 off just 50 balls, including five fours, while McMillan became the fourth Kiwi batsman to score a century in the match. The Kiwis declared as soon as McMillan reached his century.

The Indian openers, Sehwag and Aakash Chopra, had to negotiate five overs before lunch and they managed to do that successfully. Ian Butler did manage to impress in his short spell, touching speeds as fast as 147 km/h, and managed to extract some disconcerting bounce from the pitch as well.

At lunch India were 15 for no loss, with Sehwag and Chopra both on 6.

Post-lunch session

Sehwag and Chopra launched a fierce counter-attack on the Kiwi bowlers in the post-lunch session and showed the visitors that India are not going to take the result of the match for granted.

When Sehwag is in his element, playing shots seems to be the easiest task in the world. The right-hander plays his cricket by instinct and that, at times, is the root cause of his downfall. But today was different. He flayed the Kiwi bowling to all parts of the ground with disregard of the situation. That's what makes him so special and feared by the opposition.

Chopra was the perfect foil for Sehwag. Even though Sehwag was at his aggressive best, Chopra kept his wits about him and calmly rotated the strike. In fact, he played Daniel Vettori, the best Kiwi bowler on view by far, with almost a dead bat, only venturing to play strokes when he was given a lot of width. Chopra faced 40 balls from Vettori and managed to score three runs.

But Vettori certainly bowled very and his figures of 12-8-11-0 in the session are a true reflection of the admirable control he displayed.

India's aggressive approach would have been expected by many, especially with Sehwag at the wicket. The fact that he is opening the batting lends a very aggressive edge to the Indian line-up and no opposition skipper can rest till he is back in the pavilion.

After resuming at 15 off five overs, the Indian pair sped to 50 after just 11 overs. Daryl Tuffey, Ian Butler and Paul Wiseman all felt the brunt of Sehwag's blazing blade. The right-hander reached his fifty with a huge six of Wiseman, who was treated with scant respect by the batsman. The off-spinner conceded 27 runs in his five overs.

Only once did the Indians look to be in a spot of bother. A slight mix-up while running between the wicket when the score was 99 might have resulted in a run-out, but wicket-keeper Robbie Hart failed to collect cleanly.

The 100 of the Indian innings was brought up in the 31st over. During the session, India scored 99 runs at 3.30 runs per over.

At tea, India were 114 for no loss, with Sehwag batting on 69 and Chopra giving him company on 43.

Post-tea session

The Indian openers continued attacking with rare aplomb and in doing so surely restored the pride of all those sitting in the dressing room.

The ease with which Sehwag and Chopra scored their runs must have made all those watching wonder why the Kiwis took so long to reach 630.

Chopra, too, joined Sehwag in the fun and hit some well-timed boundaries. Two straight drives off Tuffey stood out among his seven fours. Everything was perfect about the shots. His feet were in the correct position, his head steady and the execution brilliant. The Delhi opener reached his first 50 in Test cricket off 119 deliveries.

At the other end, Sehwag was looking to attack every ball. Defense seemed to the last thing on his mind. He had at least two, if not more, shots for every ball bowled, and among the Kiwi bowlers only Vettori was able to keep him in check.

Things progressed brilliantly for the Indians until the 48th over of the innings, when Tuffey pitched a ball just back of a length, on the off stump. Chopra tried to play close to his body but the ball moved a little off the seam. The resulting outside  edge flew straight to Nathan Astle, who, at first slip, made no mistake.

New Zealand had their first wicket. India were reduced to 164-1.

Rahul Dravid was in next. The acting skipper played to his own tune and Sehwag adopted a subdued approach too. In the remaining 21.2 overs, India added only 39 runs.

With Sachin Tendulkar, V V S Laxman and Yuvraj Singh still to come, India will be looking to force the pace once again on the fourth day.

Scorecard | Graphical scorecard

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