Tendulkar’s twin strike brings India closer to victory (Lunch report)

April 7th, 2009 - 9:47 am ICT by IANS  

Ross Taylor Wellington, April 7 (IANS) India were in sight of a historic 2-0 series victory at lunch on the fifth and last day of the third and final cricket Test as New Zealand failed to work on Ross Taylor’s century at the Basin Reserve here Tuesday.
Taylor cashed in on a reprieve when he was called back after television replays reversed the decision on a close-in catch and went on to score his second century of the series. But that was not enough to save the hosts as they were 254 for seven at lunch with skipper Daniel Vettori on 10 and Tim Southee yet to score.

Set an improbable 617 runs to win and share the series 1-1, New Zealand dourly defied the Indian attack for well over an hour of the extended morning session to make up for the loss of time Monday because of bad light.

The home team had an eye on the clock as well as the sky above with rain forecast. The weather held out but as lunch neared, they lost three wickets, two of them to part-time leggie Sachin Tendulkar, after Harbhajan broke the stubborn fifth-wicket stand between Taylor and James Franklin.

New Zealand, who resumed at 167 for four, look highly unlikely to survive another two sessions for a draw unless rain saves them soon after lunch.

India’s skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni surprisingly called Tendulkar to bowl for the first time on the tour and the master batsman who seldom turns his arm over after a back problem a couple of years ago, removed Brendon McCullum and then James Franklin after Harbhajan provided the breakthrough by bowling Taylor with a beauty.

Taylor, 69 overnight, reached his century flicking Harbhajan Singh, the ball bisecting wicketkeeper Dhoni and Virender Sehwag at backward short leg.

Taylor’s 100, which he took four and half hours to compile, followed his 151 in the drawn second Test at Napier and was the main contributor to the record fifth-wicket stand of 142 against India with Franklin. The previous best was 140, between Craig McMillan and Adam Parore at Hamilton in 1999.

McCullum had an early escape when Munaf Patel dropped him at mid-off off Tendulkar who, however, dismissed the New Zealand vice-captain for six, caught at slip by Rahul Dravid.

Tendulkar then ended Franklin’s vigil at 49 as the left-handed all-rounder was given out legbefore after escaping a more than once as the ball rapped his pads.

Franklin also spent more than four hours, facing 171 balls and hitting seven fours.

Harbhajan pegged away for 30 overs for three wickets but it was left to Tendulkar to bring India to the brink of victory.

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