India in command after Gambhir hits ton (Roundup)

April 5th, 2009 - 1:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Sachin Tendulkar Wellington, April 5 (IANS) A stroke-filled century from Gautam Gambhir helped India strengthen their position on the third day as the visitors took a 531-run lead against New Zealand in the third and the final cricket Test here Sunday.
At close of play, India were 349 for five with skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni on 16 and Yuvraj Singh on 15 after Gambhir scored 167 at the Basin Reserve.

Rahul Dravid (60) and V.V.S. Laxman (61) also played crucial innings while Sachin Tendulkar (9) failed in what can be said as the trio’s last innings on New Zealand soil.

India made 379 in the first innings and then bowled out New Zealand for 197.

Gambhir, who scored 137 in a marathon 11-hour batting in the second innings of the second Test at Napier, got to his century in successive Tests and seventh overall and continued his astonishing form in the series.

Resuming at overnight score of 51/1, Gambhir and Dravid added 119 runs in the first session to extend India’s overall lead to 352 by lunch. Their 170-run stand for the second wicket was broken by a stunning piece of work by Brendon Mccullum to get rid of Dravid off Daniel Vettori.

Gambhir, a major batting success of the series, was at his aggressive best, and he got to his 50 off 76 balls hitting seven fours. Gambhir punished the New Zealand bowlers even if they were slightly outside the off stump. He created opportunities by coming down the track and one such stroke that he drove through the covers off Southeee got him his seventh Test century.

Dravid on the other end was more circumspect and took time to settle down. He took 63 deliveries to get to nine but then slowly showed his aggression to both pace and spin. He cut and pulled Iain O’ Brien for boundaries and when Vettori came in to the attack he lofted the New Zealand captain straight down the line and also over mid-on. Dravid reached his half-century by again hitting Vettori for his ninth boundary.

Vettori, however, took his revenge by removing Dravid and then also quickly dismissed Sachin Tendulkar (9) to make the Indian camp gloomy for a brief moment. But Gambhir and Laxman dominated the proceedings to put New Zealand on the backfoot again.

After Vettori opted for the second new ball, O’Brien justified that move by trapping Gambhir leg before the wicket with a full, straight delivery. In his next over, O’Brien rattled Laxman’s stumps with a similar delivery to give New Zealand some hope by ending the 106-run stand for the fourth wicket.

Dhoni and Yuvraj then saw safely the last few overs before the umpires were forced to call it a day due to bad light. Play will start 30 minutes early on the fourth day to make up for the lost time but with rains predicted New Zealand can have a chance to draw the Test.

India are looking to their first Test series win in New Zealand since 1968 and they have a 1-0 lead having won the first test in Hamilton by 10 wickets.

The match started an hour late by Indian Standard Time (IST) due to end of daylight saving in New Zealand. The period of daylight saving is run during summer, from the last Sunday in September until the first Sunday in April and Saturday night the New Zealanders put their clocks back an hour as daylight saving came to an end.

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