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Bhajji, Sreesanth take India's lead forward

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Published: Sunday, November 14, 2010, 17:19 [IST]
 
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Bhajji, Sree take India's lead forward

Almost immediately after Tea, Laxman fell. India were now looking precarious on 326/6. It would require something special from Dhoni and Harbhajan to give India a sizable first innings lead. But Dhoni was not equal to the task and perished to Vettori in the 106th over, when he tamely chipped a flighted delivery to short cover where McCullam was waiting to swallow him up. The score was now 336/7.

Harbhajan counterattacked by smacking Martin for two fours in the next over. Zaheer was the new man at the crease and going by his poor run with the bat, he was unlikely to last long. Vettori and Martin kept up the pressure against him and though he was having problems settling down, he tried to stick around. India finally went past New Zealand's first innings total in the 113th over, with Zaheer hitting a boundary off Martin.

But Zaheer didn't last out much longer, getting caught at fine-leg off Southee for just 7. Ojha was Bhajji's new batting partner, but couldn't give Harbhajn much support as he had done in the first Test. He was run out for a duck in the 118th over. Sensing the end of India's innings was imminent, Harbhajan went ballistic, hitting Vettori for two consecutive sixes and then running a single of the over's last ball to take India to 380/9.

Sreesanth then kept up the other end as Harbhajan reached his fifty off just 42 balls in the 120th over. While the 11th man survived some sharp bouncers from Southee, Bhajji kept plugging away for runs. He took India over the 400-run mark with an almight slog for six off Arnel in the 127th over. Bhajji went after Arnel again in the over, swatting him for a four to midwicket. The score was now 410/9.

In a few overs' time Sreesanth got into the act and hit Ross Taylor for back-to-back fours, bringing up with the 50-run partnership. India now had a lead of over 70 runs and Bhajji was not finished with business. He sent Martin for another huge six in the 130th over. With India's score at 436/9 and the lead 86, the umpires called stumps due to bad light.

The day started with Sachin Tendulkar's premature departure. He had made just 13 when he tried to send Daniel Vettori over mid-on, but only succeeded in scooping up the ball to Ross Taylor who made no mistake. The score was 184/2 at the start of the 53rd over.

Then Laxman joined Dravid out in the middle and a couple of overs later, went after Martin, smashing him for two boundaries in the 57th over. The batsmen steadied the innings, playing themselves in and taking India past the 200-run mark in the 60th over.

From then on, the batsmen began playing rather cautiously with the boundaries coming few and far between. Even the singles seemed hard to come by as Vettori and Arnel kept up the pressure. But the batsmen remained steadfast to their posts and a breakthrough didn't happen. Dravid and Laxman had taken India to Lunch on Day 3 with the score at 237/3 in 79 overs.

After the break, Dravid and Laxman continued to play cautiously but in the 84th over, Laxman broke lose to send Arnel for two fours. India had reduced the gap with New Zealand's first innings total under a hundred. But then a Southee delivery crashed into Dravid's pads plumb in front and the umpire's fatal finger was up. Dravid was out on a hard-fought 54 and Suresh Raina was the new man in the middle.

He supported Laxman for a while and even smashed Southee for two consecutive boundaries in the 90th over. Raina stuck around to watch Laxman reach his fifty, which the latter brought up with a classy flick for four off Southee. But soon after, Raina went to Vettori with India on 311/5. Dhoni came in and played out the last few overs to Tea, taking India to 323/5.

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