Harbajan’s maiden ton, Laxman save India Ahmedabad Test (Roundup)

November 8th, 2010 - 7:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Harbhajan Singh Ahmedabad, Nov 8 (IANS) Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh’s maiden Test century and his 163-run seventh-wicket stand with V.V.S. Laxman, who was distinctly unlucky to miss a hundred, made sure India drew the first cricket Test against New Zealand on the fifth and last day here Monday.

Harbhajan (115 runs, 193 balls, 11×4, 3×6) and Laxman (91 runs, 253b, 9×4) took India to a second-innings total of 266 from a perilous 82 for six on the fifth and last day. India’s second innings came to end shortly after tea, leaving New Zealand hardly any time to get 295 runs.

The visitors completed the formalities of batting the minimum required ten overs to score 22 for the loss of Tim McIntosh’s wicket, caught plumb in front by Zaheer Khan, before calling the match off.

Laxman and Harbhajan steadied the innings after Chris Martin rocked the Indian innings with a five for 63 on the fourth day Sunday. Interestingly, no team has ever won in Ahmedabad, chasing a target and the Motera pitch kept that record intact.

The second Test of the three-match series begins in Hyderabad Nov 12.

Harbhajan, who was kept on a leash by Laxman by constantly goading him to stay cool, brought up his hundred in style with a six over extra cover and celebrated it by mimicking Sachin Tendulkar’s characteristic crouch as the entire dressing room stood up to laud his effort.

However, Laxman, who looked poised for his hundred, was unlucky when umpire Steve Davis adjudged him leg before to Daniel Vettori (2-81) though the replays showed that the batsman nicked the ball on to the pads. Laxman stared in disbelief before walking off shaking his head.

Davis came up with another doubtful decision when he ruled Zaheer Khan lbw off the next ball, again the batsman edging the ball. Vettori was on a hat-trick, but Pragyan Ohja survived and the Indians were 255 for eight at tea.

Harbhajan fell soon after tea when he top-edged a Ross Taylor (2-4) full toss straight to Bradley John-Walting at the short fine leg. Taylor soon had his second wicket as Shantakumaran Sreesanth snicked for wicket-keeper Gareth Hopkins to take the catch and end the Indian innings.

Laxman and Harbhajan batted with assurance to see that they saw through the morning session without being separated.

Martin, who did the bulk of bowling as New Zealand could not use injured Hamish Bennett (groin) and Jesse Ryder (calf), was played out carefully by the Indian duo. Non-regular Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum were forced to bowl.

Laxman, who invariably rescued the team from difficult situations to either win or save Tests, yet again roughed it out, nursing Harbhajan at the other end.

Laxman batted with poise and patience to repair the damage. In contrast, Harbhajan repeatedly flirted with danger and was lucky to survive a run out chance in the third over of the day when a throw by Vettori missed the stumps.

It took Laxman 154 deliveries to bring up his 50 with four boundaries whereas Harbhajan’s 50 came off 78 balls with five fours and a six, his second fifty of the Test.

India had dominated the first two days of the Test with an imposing 487 runs total in the first innings with Virender Sehwag (173) and Rahul Dravid (104) cracking magnificent centuries.

The New Zealand reply was boosted by Jesse Ryder’s third Test century followed by 20-year-old Kane Williamson’s hundred on debut, making him the youngest Black Cap to achieve this feat. The visitors were bowled out in their first innings for 459, conceding a slim 28-run lead.

The Black Caps have not won a Test in India since John Wright led them to a 136-run victory in Mumbai 22 years ago.

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