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Kiwis take honours in drawn Test

Ashish Magotra | October 20, 2003 12:47 IST
Last Updated: October 20, 2003 17:34 IST

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"It was Gavaskar
The real master
Just like a wall
We couldn't get Gavaskar at all, not at all
You know the West Indies couldn't out
Gavaskar at all."

These are the lyrics of a famous Calypso song, composed by Lord Relator, in tribute to Sunil Gavaskar's stunning debut against the West Indies in 1971.

At the end of day 5 in the second Test, the Kiwis could well be looking to adapt V V S Laxman's name to the lyrics. The wristy Hyderabad batsman almost single-handedly snuffed out whatever hopes New Zealand may have had of winning the Test after making the hosts follow-on, and for his brilliant showing in the two Tests was adjudged the man-of-the-series.

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He scored 171 runs in the match without being dismissed once. Hard as they tried, the Kiwi bowlers could not get Laxman; not at all!

India were 136 for the loss of four wickets in their second innings when the match ended in a draw.

V V S Laxman, on 67, and Yuvraj Singh, on 5, ensured that the Indians did not face the ignominy of defeat on home turf.

The Kiwis will especially be pleased with the lion-hearted bowling effort of Daryl Tuffey. It was only through his efforts that the match, which seemed to destined for a dull draw from day 2, finally saw some excitement on the final day. The bowler earned the man-of-the-match award for his seven-wicket match-haul.

The Indians had only themselves to blame for the dilemma they found themselves in. Their abysmally slow-scoring rate on the fourth day (only 187 runs in 90 overs) saw their batsmen get bogged down and almost pay a heavy price for their laxity.

Morning session

India's performance in the morning session can be summed up in one word: disastrous.

For New Zealand, it was one man who made all the difference in the session. Tuffey was at his inspired best as he effected a run-out and claimed four wickets to almost single-handedly spark the match back to life.

The Test appeared heading for a draw ever since day 2, but the medium pace bowler changed all that in the space of a couple of hours.

Earlier, the Kiwis ended the Indian first innings at 424 and enforced the follow-on.

Resuming at 390 for 6, Laxman and Anil Kumble had the unenviable task of guiding India to safety and avoiding the follow-on. The first session at Mohali sees the pitch always offering a lot of help to the bowlers and the final day was no different from the norm. But the Kiwis also had Lady luck smiling on them.

Kumble did not last too long. After six runs were added to the overnight total, he pushed a ball to mid-on and started off for a single, only to stutter mid-way after seeing Tuffey effect a brilliant stop. That stutter proved very costly as Tuffey managed to flip the ball back in the same action and hit the stumps on the full even as Kumble was struggling to reach the crease.

Harbhajan Singh was in next and he scored eight runs in quick time before being dismissed in a `very unfortunate manner. Laxman hit a straight drive, but Ian Butler managed to get his finger-tips to the ball and deflect it onto the stumps. Harbhajan had backed-up too far and had to head back to the pavilion.

In the midst of all the mayhem, Laxman reached his fifth Test century.

Lakshmipathy Balaji lived a charmed life while he was at the crease. He was dropped twice by wicket-keeper Robbie Hart on 412-8 and 419-8 off the bowling of both Tuffey and Butler respectively, but stayed there for 23 balls and put on 16 runs with Laxman to guide India to the brink of avoiding the follow-on. But then his luck ran-out, finally dismissed by Tuffey. Bowling a brilliant line and length, he got one to take the edge of Balaji's bat. Hart finally held onto the ball.

Zaheer Khan came in and was dismissed by Tuffey off the last ball of the over in an almost identical manner. Laxman was unbeaten on 104.

India still needed 206 runs to equal the Kiwi total. All of a sudden the result of the match is open to speculation.

The Indian second innings started off with a four from opener Aakash Chopra's bat. Virender Sehwag though was unable to replicate his first innings form. Tuffey effected the breakthrough again. Sehwag chanced his arm outside the off stump but only managed to edge in straight to Stephen Fleming at first slip, who took a good catch, moving to his right.

At this stage, India were 6 for 1.

Rahul Dravid was gone six runs later, the Tuffey-Fleming combination at work again. India will need to bat out the entire post-lunch session without losing a wicket to save the Test and series.

At lunch, India were fighting to save the match at 12 for the loss of two wickets in their second innings.

Post-lunch session

The Kiwis, spurred by fine bowling from Tuffey, kept the runs down to a minimum and virtually strangled the Indian batsmen, with the exception of Laxman.

India had moved to 18 for 2 in their second innings after New Zealand enforced the follow-on. But Tuffey added to their woes yet again. After claiming the first two wickets, the medium pacer clean bowled Sachin Tendulkar (1). The master batsman played down the wrong line and ball found the gap between bat and pad -- even as he was on the move -- and crashed into the off-stump.

Tendulkar's slump in form has been alarming. He looks very short of confidence but a batsman of his class should be able to ride out the bad phase.

At this stage, the match was in the balance. But Laxman put up his hand again. After completing his century in the first session today, he allayed fears of a complete rout.

Chopra, playing only his second Test, continued to impress. The Delhi opener applied himself well and gave the bowlers no chance. The flow of runs was reduced to a trickle but no more wickets were lost.

The pitch, with all its inconsistencies, started to play up as it did on day 4. Vettori got the ball to jump up from a length. But Chopra and Laxman stood firm in the face of disaster.

India were 68 for three at tea. Another wicket at this stage could very well have turned the tide New Zealand's way given the inexperience of the batsmen to follow.

Chopra, with 22, and Laxman, on 38, were at the crease.

Post-tea session

The Indians needed to survive the last session and they did so without much fuss. Aakash Chopra (52) weighed in with a very important knock in trying circumstances to underline his credentials as an opening batsman of some class. His placid existence was perfect for India in their hour of need and along with Laxman he took India to safety.

He was eventually dismissed by off-spinner Paul Wiseman after facing 160 balls and striking eight boundaries. The opener tried to work the ball to the on-side and edged it to Richardson at short leg off the pad. A visibly disappointed Chopra walked off the field shaking his head in disgust at the false shot he played. But he will have given the selectors enough reason to stand by him in the near future when Australia beckons.

Laxman, at the other end, was completely at ease and on a different plane from the rest of the batsman. It has often been said that when the going is too easy for him he tends to lose interest and gift his wicket away. But today was different. His concentration was unwavering as he put together a masterly 67 runs, which contained eight hits to the boundary and came off 183 balls.

Yuvraj Singh came in at the fall of Chopra's wicket and did nothing foolish. Along with Laxman, he saw the match to its end.

A draw will certainly not be a satisfying result for either team. But in the circumstances, it certainly was the best result India could have hoped for.

The tri-nation one-day series begins on October 23, when India take on New Zealand at Chennai.

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