Friday, April 3, 2009


New Zealand's decision to bowl first after winning the toss was vindicated when it held India to 375-9 on the first day of the third Test on Friday.There were times when Daniel Vettori's judgment in taking his team into the field seemed flawed. But despite India's batsmen enjoying periods of dominance in all three sessions, New Zealand ended the day with a slight upper hand.By stumps, Sachin Tendulkar's 62 — his 53rd Test half-century — Harbhajan Singh's defiant 60, Mahendra Singh Dhoni's 52 and Virender Sehwag's 48 were India's highest scores.India leads the three-test series 1-0 after winning the first test at Hamilton by 10 wickets and the second Test at Napier was drawn. The visitors are trying to win their first series in New Zealand since 1968.Tendulkar forged a 90-run partnership for the third wicket with Rahul Dravid (35), while Sehwag shared a 73-run opening stand with Gautam Gambhir (23) and Dhoni and Harbhajan added 79 for the seventh wicket.

The most damaging stands from New Zealand's point of view were those between Dhoni and Harbhajan, which arrested its strong second-session comeback, and late flurries involving Harbhajan and Zaheer Khan.India's last-wicket pair of Ishant Sharma (15) and Munaf Patel (14) also defied New Zealand by adding 28 in an unbroken stand before stumps.New Zealand's best bowler was Chris Martin, who took the new ball and returned figures of 3-95 at stumps."They probably ended up with 50 or so too many," Martin said. "We probably didn't have the energy or endurance to press home our advantage at the end."We were pleased with certain periods. We made hay at times and got a couple of wickets in clumps. We came out of day not too bad, but that extra wicket would have been nice."

New Zealand felt its best chance of leveling the series would come from bowling first and placing India under pressure. Seven of the last 10 teams to win the toss at the Basin Reserve have bowled and six of the last 10 tests at the ground have been won by the team that fielded first.Sehwag played with typical panache at the top of India's order and gave impetus to the innings as the tourists raced to 50 in just 41 minutes and reached 68 by the end of the first hour. Sehwag was 48 and India was 73 without loss when he feathered a catch to wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum off Iain O'Brien in the 16th over.Gambhir fell lbw to James Franklin only nine balls later to leave India at 75-2 as the tide of the first session turned.Tendulkar and Dravid then restored the innings in a partnership which again seemed to assert the dominance of bat over ball. Tendulkar played with typical fluency and class, reaching his half century from 67 balls with a square cut four off O'Brien, his ninth boundary.

Tendulkar was dismissed just 10 runs short of he and Dravid's 17th century partnership in tests — it would have surpassed the record 16 century stands shared by Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes for the West Indies and Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting for Australia.Tendulkar's dismissal sparked a mini collapse which saw three wickets fall for 17 runs in the next 8.4 overs. V.V.S. Laxman was out for four and Yuvraj Singh for nine as India slipped from 165-2 to 182-5.Dravid followed with the total at 204 after batting 182 minutes for his 35, attempting again to anchor the innings. New Zealand had a pre-eminent position with India at 204-6 in the last session but Dhoni, Yuvraj and Khan, who smashed 33 runs from 23 balls, gave some late heart to the batting side.

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