Dhoni, Harbhajan put India in command (Roundup)April 3rd, 2009 - 2:22 pm ICT by IANS
Wellington, April 3 (IANS) Quick half-centuries by Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh helped India recover from middle-order blues and post a commanding 375 for nine in the first innings on the first day of the third cricket Test here Friday.
At close, Ishant Sharma was batting on 15 and Munaf Patel on 14 to frustrate the New Zealand bowlers on a seamers’ track at the Basin Reserve.
Dhoni (52) and Harbhajan (60) shared a crucial 79-run stand for the seventh-wicket that helped India pull out of a grave situation after the top order got starts but failed to convert them into big scores.
Virender Sehwag (48) gave India a breezy start before Sachin Tendulkar (62) and Rahul Dravid (35) provided some stability to the innings. But V.V.S. Laxman (4) and Yuvraj Singh (9) departed in quick succession to leave the Indian innings struggling at 182 for five.
Sehwag mocked New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori’s decision to bowl first, hammering 48 off 51 balls before he and his fellow-opener Gautam Gambhir (23) fell in quick succession, and India went to lunch at 101 for two.
Vettori’s gamble of using the first morning’s conditions at the windy Basin Reserve looked like coming unstuck when Sehwag and Gambhir rattled up 65 runs in the first hour.
But soon on resumption after drinks, the two Wellington bowlers Iain O’Brien and James Franklin struck to save the situation.
Sehwag went after the recalled Tim Southee just as he had done in the third one-dayer at Christchurch when the young seam bowler was hit for 105 runs off his 10 overs and banished for the rest of the series.
Sehwag hit seven fours and a six to reach 48 off 51 balls before he was cramped for space to cut O’Brien and a thick edge went straight to wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum in the 16th over.
Nine balls later, Franklin not only ended Gambhir’s stay at the wicket, but also a stretch of 69 overs without a wicket in the series. He trapped Gambhir leg before wicket for 23, umpire Simon Taufel upholding the appeal as Gambhir was well forward and outside the crease at the time of the impact. The replays showed the off-cutter would have clipped the top of the middle stump.
Dravid and Tendulkar then stitched together a 90-run partnership to bring stability to the India innings.
As the batsmen got cautious, O’Brien bowled the innings’ first maiden in the 18th over and Franklin the second in the next over.
O’Brien and Franklin bowled six overs each in the morning session and conceded 12 and 10 runs for their wicket apiece.
Vettori’s ploy to bowl first so that he could bat when the pitch was at its best was undone by some wayward bowling by Southee.
After Gambhir clipped Southee’s first ball of the Test to the mid wicket boundary, Sehwag treated the fast bowler shabbily by uppercutting him for a six over third man.
Southee’s first six overs cost 40 and he was hit for two more fours by Tendulkar in his last over before lunch.
The loss of both openers in quick succession slowed the run-rate considerably as Dravid and Tendulkar made sure the Indians went to lunch without further damage.
Tendulkar began slowly but after the lunch break unfurled a flurry of shots and punished the New Zealand bowlers when they marginally strayed outside off. One such stroke, off O’Brien, brought up his half-century, his third fifty-plus score of the series.
But still New Zealand bowlers persisted with their outside-off-stump line and it paid off when Tendulkar poked at one from Martin to edge it to Brendon McCullum. Laxman repeated the same mistake off Southee and Yuvraj found himself trapped leg before off Jesse Ryder as New Zealand pulled back the strings in the second session.
Soon after the tea break, Dravid fell after a patient innings as India slumped to 204 for six. Dhoni and Harbhajan then made their presence felt with quick running between the wickets.
Both the batsmen rode on their luck and made some lucky escapes during their stay and Vettori found himself at the receiving end of the two batsmen. Dhoni departed while top-edging a pull off Southee but Zaheer Khan (33), who followed next, kept the pressure mounting by hitting O’Brien for four successive fours.
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Tags: basin reserve, captain daniel, cricket test, daniel vettori, dayer, gambhir, grave situation, harbhajan singh, james franklin, mahendra singh dhoni, mccullum, munaf patel, nine balls, o brien, sachin tendulkar, sehwag, thick edge, v v s laxman, yuvraj singh, zealand captain