Ahmedabad: New Zealand were struggling to avoid a follow-on against India in the opening cricket Test despite an unbeaten 54 by Nathan Astle in Ahmedabad on Friday. The tourists were 118-4 at lunch on the third day after resuming at 41-3 in reply to India's 500-5 declared. They still required 182 more runs to make India bat again. Craig McMillan was the other batsman at the crease on six. India had to wait for more than an hour for their lone success as Astle and Scott Styris added 91 for the fourth wicket. Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh provided the breakthrough when he had Styris (34) caught by debutant Akash Chopra at forward short-leg.
The New Zealand batsman hit five fours in his 98-ball knock. Chopra had earlier let off Styris from Harbhajan's bowling when the batsman was on 19, making a late diving attempt but failing to hold the ball. Astle batted comfortably against both seamers and spinners, driving and cutting fluently on way to his 17th Test half-century. He has so far hit six fours in his unbeaten 110-ball knock. Left-arm seamer Zaheer Khan, who rocked New Zealand with three quick wickets on Thursday, failed to add to his tally on a pitch that still favoured batsmen.
Debutant fast bowler Laxmipathy Balaji also went wicketless as he bowled short and was pulled vigorously by Styris on a couple of occasions. He has so far conceded 45 in 14 unimpressive overs. Harbhajan was the pick of Indian bowlers, testing the batsmen with his variations in line and length but he lacked support from the other end. Veteran leg-spinner Anil Kumble was pressed into the attack in the closing stages of the two-hour opening session, but failed to get a wicket in his four overs.