Ahmedabad: Rahul Dravid cracked an unbeaten 110 to put India on course for a big total in the first cricket Test against New Zealand in Ahmedabad on Wednesday. The stylish middle-order batsman hit 12 fours in his 15th Test century as India reached 249-3 at stumps on the opening day after electing to bat on a good pitch. Dravid put on 72 for the second wicket with debutant opener Akash Chopra (42) and an unbroken 115 for the fourth with Venkatsai Laxman (56 not out) on a day of slow batting at the Sardar Patel Stadium.
Seamers Daryl Tuffey and Scott Styris, and left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori, each grabbed one wicket to contain the Indian batsmen for two sessions in hot and humid conditions. India managed to score freely only in the final session as Dravid and Laxman exploded with a flurry of boundaries against both fast bowlers and spinners. The last session produced 100 runs. "It was nice to start the new season with a hundred," said Dravid, the Indian vice- captain. "I guess making a century becomes a kind of a habit.
Our plan is to bat once and bat big. It is a slow wicket which will make it very hard for the bowlers." "The game was in the balance at 134-3, but Laxman did just great," he added. Both of us have been batting together in junior cricket for a long time, so we know each other's game well and he keeps my concentrating going. The score was par for the day." The fourth-wicket pair played a major role in steadying the innings after the cheap dismissals of Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag.
Styris got the prize wicket of Tendulkar in the post-lunch session when he had the batsman caught by lone slip Nathan Astle for eight runs. Tendulkar did not look his best during his 54-minute stay at the crease. He was kept silent by Vettori, who often bowled a defensive leg-stump line to deny the batsman freedom to play strokes. Frustrated, Tendulkar drove a Styris delivery away from the body to be caught in the slips, much to the disappointment of nearly 5,000 spectators who braved the heat and dust in anticipation of a long knock from their idol.
"It is one thing to do it in New Zealand and quite another to do it in his own country," a jubilant Styris said of Tendulkar's dismissal. "We were a bit astounded to get him out like that. One more wicket in the end and it would have been our day. Our fielding fell away towards the end." New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming used his limited bowling resources well to put India on the backfoot before Dravid and Laxman propped up the innings with their attractive knocks. The tourists bagged two wickets in the post-lunch session, with Vettori holding a return catch to account for Chopra before Styris got rid of Tendulkar.
Chopra impressed more with his staying prowess than stroke-play, batting 158 minutes for his 42. Hard-hitting opener Sehwag was the lone batsman to be dismissed in the morning session after scoring a 32-ball 29. He was trapped leg-before off a Tuffey delivery that cut in sharply off the pitch. Sehwag looked in a hurry, going for shots early in his innings in order to spoil the rhythm of new-ball bowlers Tuffey and Jacob Oram.
The aggressive opener cut Oram for a four and then slashed Tuffey for a six over third-man, the ball crossing over the boundary-line after fielder Craig McMillan got a hand to it. Sehwag failed to curb his strokes even after offering the difficult chance, pulling and driving Styris for two successive fours. His flourish, however, did not last long. Dravid and Laxman then saw to it that India did not the squander the advantage of winning the toss on a good batting pitch with their solid unbeaten knocks.
| Copyright AFP 2001 |