Sunday, April 5, 2009




Gautam Gambhir made 167 and Sachin Tendulkar fell for 9 in what may be his last Test innings in New Zealand as India reached 349 for five at stumps on the third day to strengthen its grip on the third Test.With Gambhir's guidance and contributions of 60 by Rahul Dravid and 61 from VVS Laxman, India took a 531-run lead over New Zealand with five second-innings wickets intact and two full days remaining.At stumps, drawn 25 minutes early due to poor light, India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was 16 not out and Yuvraj Singh was unbeaten on 15.Gambhir posted his sixth Test century, his second in three innings, and recorded his third-highest Test score after his 206 against Australia and 179 against England.India dismissed New Zealand on Saturday for 197 in reply to its first innings of 379, and was 51-1, 233 runs ahead, when play began on Sunday.It steadily built on its already considerable advantage thanks largely to Gambhir, who batted 352 minutes and hit 16 boundaries and two sixes, and with the assistance of Dravid and Laxman.

Gambhir and India kept New Zealand in the field throughout the third day, played in bitterly cold and windy conditions and which left India poised to claim its first Test series win in New Zealand in 41 years.India won the first Test at Hamilton by 10 wickets, drew the second at Napier and now needs only a draw at the Basin Reserve to clinch a Test series victory in New Zealand for the first time since Indian's first toured here in 1968.New Zealand's bowling attack gained only a small consolation when it claimed the wickets of Gambhir and Laxman in a shortened third session."It was quite tough standing out there for 90 overs with wind howling in your face, but I guess we've done pretty well," New Zealand opener Martin Guptill said."I'm sure they will declare at some stage but I'm not sure when. They could declare overnight, they could declare tomorrow, but we have to be ready to bat for a long time whenever they do."All three sessions on Sunday belonged to India, particularly the first when Gambhir and Dravid added 119 in a partnership which eventually provided India with 170 runs. Dravid reached his 57th Test half century in 159 minutes and steered his team, in Gambhir's company, to a virtually unassailable position.The only disappointment for India was Tendulkar's minor failure.Tendulkar first played in New Zealand as a 17-year-old in 1990, making a duck in his first innings at Christchurch. When the 35-year-old star batsman left the field to generous applause on Sunday after his brief innings, he had scored 857 runs in 20 innings in New Zealand at an average of 45.Tendulkar has scored two Test centuries in New Zealand, the best of which was his 160 in the first innings of this year's first Test at Hamilton.Dravid fell in unusual circumstances after moving his score from 57 at lunch to 60, and after batting for seven minutes more than three hours.He sought to sweep a leg-side delivery from Vettori but managed only to flick the ball directly into the gloves of wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum, who had already begun to move wide of leg stump.Gambhir remained the rock of the innings. At the end of his knock on Sunday he had posted scores of 72, 30 not out, 16, 137, 23 and 167 in the series for 445 runs at an average of 89.

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