Nagpur: Awesome batting performances by Sachin Tendulkar and Sanjay Bangar enabled India piles up a huge total and push for an innings win in the first Test against Zimbabwe on Sunday.
Bangar joined Tendulkar and Shiv Sunder Das in hitting centuries as India declared its first innings at 570 for seven, 283 runs ahead of Zimbabwe's score of 287. Tendulkar, who had completed his 28th hundred on Saturday, was finally out on Sunday for 176. The declaration came as soon as Bangar, playing his second Test, reached his maiden hundred. Leg spinner Anil Kumble then took three important wickets to put Zimbabwe in further trouble. By stumps on the fourth day on Sunday, Zimbabwe had lost four wickets for 152 runs and needed 131 more runs to make India bat again. The sole consolation for the visitors, on a day when India took most of the honours, was the defiant batting by opener Trevor Gripper who remained unbeaten on 52.
Off spinner Ray Price, who earlier in the day had finished with a five-wicket haul, was giving him company on four runs after his team's most experienced batsmen - skipper Stuart Carlisle, Alistair Campbell, Andy Flower and Gavin Rennie - had been sent back. India could have been better placed had luck favoured them a bit. Zimbabwe batsmen repeatedly produced edges and snicks when Kumble and off spinner Harbhajan Singh were operating but they fell short of the close-in fielders.
Both Tendulkar and Bangar showed a remarkable sense of urgency when India resumed at its overnight score of 437 for five on Sunday morning. The scoring rate, which was around 2.7 on Saturday, climbed to more than 6.6 on Sunday as both the batsmen went after Zimbabwe bowling. Tendulkar went into the attack mode from the very start and played some attractive shots as he marched towards his third career double century. However, he was out for 176, which was studded with 23 boundaries, when he gave a simple catch to Andy Flower while trying to loft Price over long-on.
Price picked his fifth wicket and returned a career-best figure of five for 182. The sixth wicket association between Tendulkar and Bangar yielded 171 runs. India lost another wicket, that of Zaheer Khan who was promoted up the order to indulge in some hard hitting, at the same score of 547. Zaheer Khan (0) was clean bowled by Brighton Watambwa on the very second ball he faced. However, the day's most attractive innings came from Bangar, who was a surprise inclusion in the team, ahead of Virender Sehwag, for the Test. Bangar, who had an impressive outing with the ball too though he did not get any wickets, smashed two sixes and 12 fours in his hundred which came off only 155 balls.
He batted with a lot of confidence and never looked in any trouble even after Tendulkar's dismissal. Kumble gave him good support in the eighth wicket association and remained unbeaten on 13. India declared 15 minutes before lunch when Bangar reached his century with a two off Watambwa. In the four overs before lunch, Zimbabwe scored 20 runs with first innings top- scorer Carlisle accounting for 19 of those.
But Carlisle could not stay for long and was adjudged leg before wicket to a Zaheer Khan delivery, which came in sharply after pitching slightly outside the leg-stump. Carlisle scored 28 and Zimbabwe lost its first wicket at 32. Gripper and Campbell then carried the innings forward adding 48 for the second wicket before Kumble struck with the penultimate ball before tea. Campbell, who made a fine 30, lunged forward to play a defensive stroke but Kumble's delivery took the outside edge and flew to V V S Laxman in the slips.
Kumble also got rid of the big-hitting Andy Flower who failed for the second time in this match. The former Zimbabwe captain, who has a tremendous record against India, managed only eight runs before edging a delivery that rose sharply to give a simple catch to Rahul Dravid. The Indians could have got more wickets but a lot of chances went abegging. Kumble bowled round the wicket to exploit the rough and he was virtually unplayable on many occasions. Despite five close-in fielders, the Zimbabwe batsmen were lucky to have their snicks land in safe places.
Harbhajan Singh, who went wicket less in the first innings, also bowled a probing line and had the batsmen in trouble but was unlucky not to have picked a wicket. Kumble provided another breakthrough towards the end of the day when he had Gavin Rennie caught by Sehwag, substituting for Das who had an upset stomach, in the slip. Rennie made 25.