Gambhir and Laxman stars of drawn Napier Test (Round up)

March 30th, 2009 - 5:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Sachin Tendulkar Napier, March 30 (IANS) India’s world-class batting line-up revolved around Gautam Gambhir to extricate the side from a tight spot and draw the second cricket Test against New Zealand at McLean Park here Monday.
The Delhi southpaw’s marathon innings, which started late on the third day Saturday eventually ended this afternoon at 137 to a dubious legbefore decision. But, by then he and the classy Vangipurappu Venkata Sai Laxman, who scored his 14th Test century, steered India out of choppy waters.

Gambhir, who opened the India innings following on 314 runs adrift of New Zealand’s mammoth 619 for nine after being bowled out for 305 in the first innings, stayed at the wicket for 10 hours 42 minutes and returned to the pavilion only after the deficit was wiped out.

It was a tough call for Gambhir as Sachin Tendulkar fell early on resumption this morning and with a close cordon of fielders breathing down his neck, he stuck it out gallantly as Laxman at the other end pushed the score along. After Gambhir’s dismissal, Yuvraj Singh (54) batted freely and India were 476 for four when the two teams agreed to call off play with the visitors 162 ahead.

It was a fightback to remember for India overseas.

Gambhir’s knock (436 balls, 18 fours) was the cornerstone on which India built its edifice. The 27-year-old opener had partnerships with the three old warhorses — Rahul Dravid (62), Sachin Tendulkar (64) and Laxman. The highest was 133 with Dravid, but missed century partnerships with Tendulkar by three runs and by four runs with Laxman.

This was Gambhir’s fifth Test hundred and the first outside the subcontinent. He is the second fastest Indian to complete 2000 runs, in just 24 Tests, and was the second longest innings by an Indian overseas in terms of time at the crease.

But mere statistics will not reflect the significance of Gambhir’s knock. He threw his wicket away in the first innings, but showed his resilience this time around.

For someone who loves to play shots, Gambhir adapted to the situation marvellously by curbing his natural instinct to attack and focussed on stitching partnerships. The Wall — Dravid — himself was at the other end to guide him as the two laid the base for the fightback.

Laxman was at his elegant best while Yuvraj, who has been often criticised for not doing justice to his talent, showed he could deliver.

Runs flowed at will as deliveries kissed their bats and disappeared to the fence. Laxman’s bat appeared a new-age touch screen with ball racing through with the swish of his supple wrists. His sweetly timed 25 fours showed his elegance and fluency.

While the Indians scored a mere 54 runs in 30 overs in the first session, Laxman and Yuvraj galloped to their century stand in a shade less than an hour. Yuvraj cracking ten fours in his 63-ball 54.

If Laxman and Yuvraj have shown the class of Indian batting, Gambhir’s innings should be seen in the perspective of its backdrop.

For three days, New Zealand were in absolute control of the Test save the first session on the first day when they lost the first three wickets for 23 runs. Dropped catches let them off the hook and Jesse Ryder scored a double century and Ross Taylore and Brendon MCcullum hundreds.

They came tantalisingly close to levelling the series when the extravagant strokeplay saw India being dismissed for 305 on a featherbed of a wicket.

The pitch played true even on the fourth and fifth day and the Indian batsmen blossomed cutting out all frills to bat out the last two days to show why they are as good as the the world number one team.

Resuming the day with a deficit of 62 runs, Gambhir and Tendulkar took India to safety shores.

Tendulkar’s dismissal off pace bowler Chris Martin, gave hope to New Zealand.

Gambhir was lucky to survive after lunch when Iain O’Brien dropped an easy sitter at mid-on. He was finally out lbw to Jeetan Patel. But the lbw decision looked doubtful in TV replays.

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