AHMEDABAD: Tail-ender Harbhajan Singh struck a career-best 69 before India picked up two early wickets to put New Zealand under pressure at 69 for two at stumps on the second day of the first Test.
Singh slammed three sixes and five fours in his 97-ball knock to steer India’s first innings to 487 after the hosts had been reduced to 412 for eight on a deteriorating wicket at the Sardar Patel Stadium. At stumps, New Zealand trailed by 418 runs with eight wickets in hand. Brendon McCullum, 38, and Ross Taylor, 18, were the unbeaten batsmen at the close of play.
India made early inroads
Paceman Zaheer Khan gave India an early breakthrough when he had opener Tim McIntosh (0) caught behind in the third over while left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha pegged back the off-stump of BJ Watling to reduce the Kiwis to 27 for two. But McCullum, opening the innings for the first time in Tests, held on steadily to one end, hitting seven fours during his two-hour stay at the wicket.
Vettori takes career-best
Earlier, Kiwi captain Daniel Vettori finished with the best figures of four for 118, sending back Mahendra Singh Dhoni for 10, Zaheer Khan for one and Singh after taking the wicket of Virender Sehwag for 173 on Thursday.
New Zealand fought back in the last 25 minutes before lunch to pick three quick Indian wickets, including that of star batsman Sachin Tendulkar for 40. Tendulkar offered a simple return catch to off-spinner Jeetan Patel, disappointing a sizeable crowd that was expecting to celebrate his 50th Test ton on Diwali.
Middle-order batsman VVS Laxman (40) was trapped leg-before wicket by Patel (three for 135) after he had shared 66 runs for the fourth wicket with Tendulkar.
Debutant Kane Williamson picked up his first Test wicket when Suresh Raina, after making just three, offered a sharp chance to McCullum at extra cover shortly before the lunch break. Raina’s persistance to go hard at the ball resulted in his downfall.
The Indians were slow off the blocks after resuming at their overnight score of 329 for three , putting on 63 runs in two hours of play in the first session.
Tendulkar, who scored the first of his six double centuries against New Zealand at the same venue in 1999, was uncharacteristically subdued during his nearly three-hour stay at the crease. He hit five fours in his 133-ball knock. New Zealand were hit by a groin injury to rookie paceman Hamish Bennett, who did not come out to bowl on Friday.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 6th, 2010.