Thursday, November 11, 2010


India batsman V.V.S. Laxman will play his first ever Test in his home city of Hyderabad on Friday when Test cricket returns there for the first time in 22 years as the hosts take on New Zealand.

India will be hoping they will not need to rely on Laxman as much in the second Test of the series as it did in the first, when he scored a resolute 91 to help the hosts salvage a draw after being reduced to a humiliating 15-5 in their second innings.

Though Harbhajan Singh outscored him with 115, he acknowledged that Laxman had played the pivot during their match-saving partnership of 163 for the seventh wicket.

"I knew I needed to just stay there and things were made easier because Laxman was there with me," Harbhajan said as India escaped with a draw after starting the series as clear favorite against the eighth-ranked Test side.

Laxman has played decisive roles in his last three Test appearances.

The 115-Test veteran had scored 103 not out against Sri Lanka at Colombo earlier this year for a five-wicket win and then made 73 not out in a dramatic one-wicket victory over Australia in Mohali. He had missed the next test that India played against Australia due to an injury before returning for the New Zealand series.

"We know we can always rely on Laxman," said India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who was positive about his team's prospects despite the mediocre display in the first Test. "It was for just one hour at Ahmedabad that we did not play well."

New Zealand paceman Chris Martin's spell on the fourth day, when he accounted for Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar among others in his five-wicket haul, helped the Black Caps quickly forget a shock 4-0 loss to Bangladesh in a limited-overs international series last month.

He had little support from a depleted bowling attack that missed debutant pace bowler Hamish Bennett and useful seamer Jesse Ryder due to injuries during the match.

Bennett, who had a groin injury, has subsequently been replaced in the tourists' squad by James Franklin.

"We are happy with the way we played at Ahmedabad," New Zealand batsman Ross Taylor said after Wednesday's practice session.

"Martin's spell has given us a lot of confidence, but it would be wrong to say that we held the edge in the match. It was an even contest and a good match of test cricket," added Taylor.

Taylor felt there would be a better chance for bowlers here.

"Spin might play a big part and this pitch will not be as flat as the one at Ahmedabad," said Taylor.

The Rajiv Gandhi Stadium is a new addition to the list of Test grounds, as the previous three tests in the city had been held in the older Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium. Those three tests were also against New Zealand.

Test cricket returns to the city at a time when Hyderabad is struggling in domestic cricket, having been bowled out by Rajasthan for a record low of 21 in the national Ranji Trophy championship earlier this month.

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