Ahmedabad: Fast bowler Zaheer Khan grabbed three quick wickets as India tightened the screws on New Zealand in the opening cricket Test in Ahmedabad on Thursday.
New Zealand were 41-3 at stumps on the second day in reply to India's 500-5 declared, with Nathan Astle (13) and Scott Styris (10) at the crease. Left-arm seamer Zaheer wrecked New Zealand's top order as he removed Mark Richardson, Lou Vincent and skipper Stephen Fleming in an incisive opening spell to press home the advantage given by double-centurion Rahul Dravid. Richardson and Fleming were clean bowled, while Vincent was superbly caught one- handed by wicket keeper Parthiv Patel in front of first slip. Dravid exposed New Zealand's bowling limitations with a career-best 222, smashing one six and 28 fours in his third double-century. He was not the only batsman to feast on the tourists' attack, as skipper Sourav Gangly made an unbeaten 100 after being penalised two runs by South African umpire Rudi Koertzen for running on the pitch for the second time.
The Indian captain was warned earlier by English umpire David Shepherd for the same offence. India were indebted to Dravid for reaching a big total as the reliable middle-order batsman put on 130 for the fourth wicket with Venkatsai Laxman (64) and then a record 182 for the fifth with his captain. India's previous highest for the fifth wicket against New Zealand was 127 between Vijay Manjrekar and Gulabrai Ramchand at Delhi in 1955-56. Dravid surpassed his previous best score of 217 against England at the Oval last year during his 387-ball knock. It was an ordeal in the sun for New Zealand who toiled for more than two sessions in hot and humid conditions for just two wickets on a pitch that helped neither seamers nor spinners.
The Indian batting flourished in the afternoon as Dravid and Ganguly flayed the New Zealand attack with a wide range of attacking shots. Dravid, who was on 110 overnight, completed his double-century in the post-lunch session when he on-drove seamer Styris for four. He was caught behind off fast bowler Jacob Oram immediately after tea, but not before putting his team in a commanding position. Ganguly curbed his strokes at the beginning, but gained confidence as the match progressed. He looked at his best after reaching his half-century, lofting spinners Daniel Vettori twice and Paul Wiseman once for sixes. The Indian skipper declared the innings after completing his 10th Test century, which came off 211 balls with three sixes and eight fours.
Patel, playing on his home ground, chipped in with a brisk 29 not out. New Zealand did well in the morning session when they restricted the hosts to just 71 runs and also dismissed well-set Laxman before being demoralised by Dravid and Ganguly. Laxman added eight to his overnight score of 56 when he jumped out to Vettori and lofted the ball straight to Wiseman at mid-on. There was no respite for the tourists after Laxman's dismissal as Dravid and Ganguly batted aggressively against both pace and spin. In contrast, the New Zealand batting crumbled in similar conditions as Zaheer bowled his heart out on a pitch that still favoured the batsmen.