Bowlers call shots on ~~devil~~ pitch, Zaheer gets 5

Published: Saturday, December 21, 2002, 15:14 [IST]
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Hamilton (New Zealand): New Zealand was shot out for its lowest total of 94 against India on a seamer-friendly pitch as Zaheer Khan grabbed a career-best five for 29 in the second and final Test here on Saturday. New Zealand's previous lowest against India in 42 Tests was 100 at Wellington in 1980-81. India, bundled out for 99 after resuming at 92 for eight, was also in trouble despite changing its batting order in the second innings as it reached 40 for two at tea on the third day for an overall lead of 45. Sachin Tendulkar was batting on 19 with Rahul Dravid (11). Neither New Zealand nor India could cross the 100-mark in the first innings on the Westpac Park pitch that turned out to be a batsmen's nightmare and pacemen's delight. Incidentally, each team batted just 38.2 overs. The track had pace, bounce and helped seam movement throughout the day, making life miserable for batsmen. As many as 14 wickets have so far fallen in the first two sessions. Left-arm seamer Zaheer brought India back into the match with his second successive five-wicket haul in 24 Tests, bettering his previous best of 5 for 53 effort in the previous Test at Wellington last week. Skipper Stephen Fleming top-scored with 21 in New Zealand's worst batting performance against India. Opener Mark Richardson (13), Scott Styris (13) and Daryl Tuffey (13) also reached double-figures. Left-arm seamer Ashish Nehra (2 for 20) and off spinner Harbhajan Singh were the other Indian wicket-takers. India was soon at the receiving end as seamer Tuffey bowled make-shift opener Parthiv Patel for nought in his opening over and then held a return catch to dismiss Sanjay Bangar (7) in his third. New Zealand, like India, also did not find the batting easy as it kept losing wickets at regular intervals. Zaheer, 24, bowled impressively in his opening eight-over spell as he dismissed Richardson (13) and Lou Vincent (3), while Nehra removed Craig McMillan (4) and Nathan Astle (nought) off successive balls. Zaheer struck in his fourth over when he had Vincent caught by Dravid at first slip and then trapped Richardson leg before with the one that cut in sharply off the pitch. Fleming patiently waited for the loose deliveries to punish as he flicked Zaheer for two successive fours and then lofted Tinu Yohannan for another boundary in a rare show of aggression. The New Zealand captain, who survived a confident leg before appeal off Zaheer when on 16, received little support from the other end as McMillan and Astle fell in quick succession. Nehra found the edge of McMillan's bat with the one that moved away a bit, with Dravid making no mistake in the slips. A no ball later, he had Astle caught cutting by Harbhajan at point. Zaheer then ended Fleming's resistance by holding a return catch in his first over lunch to reduce the hosts to 60 for 5. With the survival becoming difficult against pacemen, New Zealand tried to take chances against spinner Harbhajan but failed to succeed. Jacob Oram tried a big shot off Harbhajan and was caught by Tendulkar at mid-off, while Styris fell to a dubious leg before decision to become the spinner's second victim.

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