Sehwag blitzkrieg leaves NZ gasping

Dashing opener falls four runs short of century

Sehwag blitzkrieg leaves NZ gasping

India’s Virender Sehwag drives the ball en route to his blistering 96 runs against New Zealand during the second Test in Hyderabad on Saturday. AFPThe fall of two well-set batsmen in the last 40 minutes meant a definite loss of momentum and a marginal loss of initiative, but there is no denying which side had the better of the exchanges at the Rajiv Gandhi International stadium.

New Zealand’s designs of building substantially on their overnight 258 for four were dashed emphatically by the brilliance of Zaheer Khan and a return to wicket-taking ways of Harbhajan Singh, following which India unleashed their one-man demolition army who answers to the name of Virender Sehwag. Single-handedly, he ate into the Kiwis’ not unimpressive 350 with a succession of blazing strokes after a rare circumspect beginning, totally dominating an opening stand of 160 (201m, 246b) with Gautam Gambhir, who rode early luck to bring up his first half-century in 11 innings.

Their association ended with Sehwag falling tragically, four short of a century; Gambhir was dismissed immediately afterwards, but Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar steered the hosts to 178 for two, 172 behind with plenty of time left.

The incisive strikes in the opening session delivered by Zaheer and Harbhajan had allowed India to wrest control, but it was imperative for the batsmen to make a strong statement, particularly after the second-innings horrors in Ahmedabad. New Zealand bowled quite splendidly with the new ball, Chris Martin again immaculate and Tim Southee looming as a bigger threat.

Neither man gave Sehwag (96, 201m, 120b, 15x4, 1x6) the liberty of freeing his arms, and both sought to cash in on Gambhir’s understandable tentativeness. The two quicks went past the outside edge of both openers on numerous occasions.

On another day, Gambhir might have seen his slash off Southee nestle in first slip’s hands rather than fly over his head, or deflected a distant waft on to his stumps. Instead, making the most of his good fortune, he tided over that demanding phase before finding reward by being thoroughly entertained by his partner.

Not often does Sehwag score just two off his first 23 deliveries, but such was the discipline of Martin and Southee that he was perforce compelled to curb his attacking instincts. His 25th delivery was a juicy half-volley from Southee, ballasted through the covers, and from then on, it was a totally different ball game.

When Sehwag gets on the bike and speeds away, there is no catching him. Comfortable with the surface and having got the measure of the bowling, he kept coming hard at the Kiwis, defensive fields with three men guarding the boundary no impediment to his furious rate of scoring. Sehwag also took great care to help Gambhir keep his focus and concentration, talking his mate through occasional indiscretions.

Their eighth century association burgeoned into a big one and was beginning to run the Kiwis ragged when Sehwag threw his hand away, attempting to slog-sweep Daniel Vettori and losing middle stump with a 23rd ton beckoning. Gambhir followed him four deliveries later, unfortunately strangled down the leg-side but after a patient, three-and-a-half-hour vigil.

The entire Kiwi innings on the second morning lasted well below that time. Zaheer made the new ball talk, bowling with great venom and using the round the stumps angle to great effect, though he lacked any support at the other end at the start.

Jesse Ryder shed his diffidence of the previous evening with several handsome drives, but Zaheer’s early leg-before dismissals of night watchman Gareth Hopkins and the young Kane Williamson brought India right back into the contest. Ryder carried on majestically, but once Mahendra Singh Dhoni belatedly introduced Harbhajan into the attack, it was all over in a trice.

The offie picked up four for 10 in 51 deliveries, the one that turned and got slightly big on a well-set Ryder to elicit an edge to first slip a truly special one. There was control and no little guile, even if the figures somewhat flatter him. Wickets in the bag, however, always bring confidence with them, and that should count for plenty in the second innings. Especially if the batsmen kick on on what should be a packed Sunday.

Score Board

NEW ZEALAND (I Innings, O/n: 258/4):

McIntosh b Zaheer    102
(376m, 254b, 10x4, 1x6)
McCullum c Dhoni b Sreesanth    4
(17m, 8b, 1x4)
Guptill lbw Ojha    85
(203m, 160b, 9x4, 1x6)
Taylor c Dhoni b Zaheer    24
(67m, 53b, 1x4)
Ryder c Laxman b Harbhajan    70
(199m, 120b, 10x4)
Hopkins lbw Zaheer    4
(25m, 11b, 1x4)
Williamson lbw Williamson    4
(18m, 12b)
Vettori lbw Harbhajan    11
(41m, 22b, 1x4)
Southee st Dhoni b Harbhajan    10
(35m, 26b, 1x4)
Arnel (not out)    6
(33m, 29b)
Martin c Sehwag b Harbhajan    3
(23m, 14b)
Extras (B-2, LB-20, W-1, NB-4)    27
Total (all out, 117.3 overs)    350
Fall of wickets: 1-4 (McCullum), 2-151 (Guptill), 3-206 (Taylor), 4-253 (McIntosh), 5-269 (Hopkins), 6-287 (Williamson), 7-312 (Vettori), 8-331 (Ryder), 9-338 (Southee).
Bowling: Zaheer 27-8-69-4, Sreesanth 21-1-88-1 (w-1, nb-4), Harbhajan 35.3-10-76-4, Ojha 27-4-80-1, Raina 7-2-15-0.

INDIA (I Innings):

Gambhir c Hopkins b Southee    54
(206m, 129b, 7x4)
Sehwag b Vettori    96
(201m, 120b, 15x4, 1x6)
Dravid (batting)    7
(39m, 28b, 1x4)
Tendulkar (batting)    11
(34m, 18b, 1x4)
Extras (B-1, LB-8, NB-1)    10
Total (for 2 wkts, 49 overs)    178
Fall of wickets: 1-160 (Sehwag), 2-160 (Gambhir).
Bowling: Martin 12-4-37-0 (nb-1), Southee 12-2-45-1, Arnel 11-2-25-0, Vettori 12-0-45-1, Williamson 2-0-17-0.

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