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No zeal in Indian batting

Ashish Magotra | October 19, 2003 15:18 IST
Last Updated: October 19, 2003 21:43 IST

Match report | Scorecard | Graphical analysis

When teams all over the world are starting to score runs quickly in Test cricket, India did the exactly opposite. In front of a 35,00-strong crowd at Mohali, the home team scored only 187 runs on the fourth day of the second Test against New Zealand.

India ended day 4 on 390 for the loss of six wickets, 41 runs adrift of the follow-on. V V S Laxman, on 86, and Anil Kumble, on 1, were batting at close of play.

The Kiwis bowled to a plan and well within themselves but at the end of the day, your mind sways towards just one statistic: 90 overs bowled and only 187 runs scored.

The pitch is not a minefield. Yes, the Indian team is under tremendous pressure, but scoring at just over two runs an over is not doing anyone any favours.

As a result, instead of resting easy, the Indians will still be worried about New Zealand enforcing the follow-on. A result still seems unlikely, more so, given the dull approach of both teams.

The match stuttered towards a draw as the batsmen were looking to keep their wickets intact. The runs kept piling on at a steady, though, slow rate. The Kiwis kept plugging away and gave no respite to the Indian batsmen

Morning session

Acting captain Rahul Dravid began aggressively with a four off Daryl Tuffey to start proceedings for the day. But off the very first ball of the second over, Ian Butler struck a vital blow for the visitors. Dravid drove flashily at a good length delivery outside the off-stump and only managed to edge it to Robbie Hart. India were reduced to 208 for 2.

After Sehwag's brilliant display on day three, everyone was primed for an encore but it was not to be. Sehwag is very aggressive at the best of times and today was no different. The Kiwis set a slightly more defensive field for him.

With India's score on 218 for 2, he was lucky to survive a huge leg-before appeal off the bowling of Scott Styris. In the same over, a few balls later, he tried to hammer a cleverly disguised slower delivery out of the ground but only succeeded in dragging the ball back onto his pads, which in turn deflected it onto his off-stump. He was out for 130.

The fall of these two wickets in quick succession put the onus on Tendulkar, who had come in at the fall of Dravid's wicket, and Laxman, who has been in sublime touch throughout this series. Laxman did not disappoint and played some wonderful wristy shots to make his way to 34. He defended stoutly but not once did he miss the opportunity to attack the bowlers.

In contrast, Tendulkar took time finding his touch. Low scores in both innings in Ahmedabad and Styris bowling a very good line put pressure on him. But at lunch the littler master was still there with 24.

With just Yuvraj Singh to follow, Tendulkar and Laxman will need to bat well and for a long time to guide India to safety. At lunch India were 267 for 3.

Post-lunch session

Laxman and Tendulkar played cautiously in their bid to help India draw the match. There were occasional flashes of brilliance from both players but nothing to consistently raise the spectators out of their stupor like Virender Sehwag yesterday.

Daniel Vettori continued to be his miserly self, conceding only 57 runs in 40 overs as the Indian duo paid due respect to the left-armer's wonderful bowling.

The 'safety first' approach of the Kiwis has taken the spice out of the game. With such a huge total on board one would have expected them to attack more. But, maybe, the placid Mohali track has them thinking that a result is just not possible on the track.

Laxman's batting during the session provided the crowd some cheer. His driving, on the up as well as on the back foot, was been superlative. Well-timed fours on the lightning-quick outfield showed just how dangerous the man can be when he wants to.

Tendulkar, though, has struggled to achieve the fluency of his normal self.

India were 330 for 3 at tea.

Post-tea session

The final session saw just sixty runs being scored and Kiwis did very well to claim three Indian wickets.

Tendulkar was dismissed off the very first ball after tea, reviving New Zealand in the process. The right-hander played forward to a Vettori delivery that bounced more than expected and the resulting inside-edge flew off the pad to Mark Richardson at silly mid-off. Tendulkar's out of character 55 came off 175 balls and included just five boundaries. India at this point were 330 for 4.

After the loss of Tendulkar, Laxman retreated into a shell. He scored only 21 runs during the session. For one who is capable of playing such inspiring cricket, Laxman's shut shop attitude was strange indeed. Keeping your wicket intact is one thing and scoring runs another.

Yuvraj Singh, who was making his debut, followed Laxman's lead and was very subdued too. We have become accustomed to his attacking strokeplay in the one-dayers and this was a complete volte-face. The one highlight of his innings, without doubt, was a punched cover drive off Tuffey just before he was dismissed. The stylish left-hander just stood up tall and caressed the ball through the covers, beating a fielder, Lou Vincent, who had been placed there to stop exactly that kind of shot.

But his first Test essay did not last too long. He was snared by Tuffey, who was getting the ball to reverse swing. He poked at a delivery angling across him and only succeeded in edging a simple catch to wicket-keeper Robbie Hart.

Parthiv Patel was in next and tried to be aggressive in his short stay at the wicket. The left-hander struck three boundaries in his 18-run knock. But then, maybe, he tried to play one shot too many against Vettori. The left-arm spinner got one to bounce and hit his gloves. The ball popped straight to Richardson, who completed an easy catch.

The Kiwi bowlers bowled with control, and after Sehwag had given them a hiding on day three, there was nothing to stop them today. It is almost certain that the Test will end in a draw but not for nothing is cricket called the game of glorious uncertainties.

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