Super quartet smothers Kiwis

Super quartet smothers Kiwis

Sehwag, Gambhir, Dravid and Tendulkar score half-centuries as hosts take 99-run lead

Super quartet smothers Kiwis

Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid run between the wickets to score a run on the second day of the 3rd and final cricket Test match against New Zealand at the VCA Ground in Nagpur on Sunday. PTI Spearheaded by Ishant Sharma, they prevented the New Zealand tail from wagging first up, then flexed their batting muscle in no uncertain terms to assume command after day two of the final Test at the VCA stadium.

The authority with which India batted – which perforce means a substantial contribution from Virender Sehwag – was a throwback to the days when touring teams dreaded the prospect of spending session after session chasing leather. The top four all made half-centuries at differing paces but similar impact, the celebrated duo of Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar hoping to go where Sehwag and opening partner Gautam Gambhir did not – to the three-figure mark.

The two bulwarks of the Indian batting in the last decade and a half had extended their world record for the most century stands to a phenomenal 19 by the time bad light ended an extended Sunday’s  entertainment. At 292 for two in response to the Kiwis’ 193, the hosts are 99 to the good with plenty of resources and time left to force a series-deciding victory.

Gambhir, Dravid and Tendulkar each had personal demons of different natures to battle, but Sehwag is immune to what by his estimation are mundane issues. A remarkably uncluttered but razor-sharp mind helps him assess situations beautifully and respond accordingly without losing any of his in-built aggression.

It was obvious from the off that New Zealand had figured out what they believed was a workable plan to curb, frustrate and consequently dismiss Sehwag. The strategy revolved around banging the ball in and slanting it into his body, thus cramping him for room.

On paper, it was a sound plan, and its execution wasn’t flawed either. Where Sehwag again caught the Kiwis unawares was with his response as he brought out the pull stroke he employs so rarely with tremendous effect.

Chris Martin might have been better off pitching the ball up and allowing it to swing; instead, by concentrating on trying to tuck Sehwag up, he sacrificed his greatest weapon, but then again, that’s what Sehwag can do to bowling units. Once he countered the short-pitched stuff, New Zealand were left waiting for a mistake, which didn’t eventuate until 113 (101m, 139b) had been posted alongside Gambhir.

The little left-hander had shaken off a poor sequence with a dogged half-century in Hyderabad, and the positive fall-out of runs under the belt was all too obvious. He was put through a brief torrid examination by pacy left-handed debutant Andy McKay, but otherwise, he was back to somewhere near his best, walking down to the seamers and handling Daniel Vettori’s left-arm spin with dextrous wrists and soft hands.

One stunning on-drive off McKay which left mid-on a mute spectator and scorched turf was vintage Gambhir, who closed in on a tenth century until an old failing, a tentative poke outside off, put Tim Southee in business.

In an extended second spell, Southee worked over Tendulkar, one shy of a 50th Test ton.

He banged the ball in and created difficult pockets, but the little man wasn’t chary of taking several blows to his body unflinchingly. Long before stumps, he had banished inevitable anxiety over number 50, and set stall alongside Dravid, rarely troubled and batting as beautifully as he has in recent times.

A bullet straight-drive off Southee, essayed with an economy of movement and encompassing the coveted basic tenets of batsmanship, suggested all was well with the Bangalorean’s batting world. The perception has needlessly been created that these days, whenever Dravid goes out to bat, he is under some sort of trial. This is a man who is playing his 147th Test, is closing in on 12,000 runs and made a century two Tests back! Is the Indian batting cup that overflowing?

It’s impossible for Dravid not to have heard the loud whispers, so he got down to doing what he does best – bat long, bat with composure, and battle on.

New Zealand didn’t bat long in the morning, lasting under an hour and only flirting with 200 because Southee used the long handle to good effect. Ishant fired out Brendon McCullum in the fourth over to ensure there were no late heroics, Southee’s cameo no more than a minor irritant.

SCORE BOARD

NEW ZEALAND (I Innings, O/n: 148/7):
McCullum c Dhoni b Ishant    40
(134m, 84b, 4x4)
Southee c Sehwag b Ojha    38
(80m, 68b, 2x4, 3x6)
McKay b Ishant    5
(19m, 16b, 1x4)
Martin (not out)    2
(14m, 6b)
Extras (B-1, LB-5, NB-3)    9
Total (all out, 66.3 overs)    193
Fall of wickets: 1-11 (Guptill), 2-16 (McIntosh), 3-42 (Taylor), 4-43 (Williamson), 5-51 (Vettori), 6-82 (Hopkins), 7-124 (Ryder), 8-159 (McCullum), 9-165 (McKay).
Bowling: S Sreesanth 12-4-28-2 (nb-1), Ishant Sharma 18-4-43-4 (nb-2), Pragyan Ojha 19.3-2-57-3, Harbhajan Singh 17-2-59-1.

INDIA (I Innings):
Gambhir c Taylor b Southee    78
(191m, 127b, 12x4)
Sehwag c & b Vettori    74
(101m, 73b, 12x4, 1x6)
Dravid (batting)    69
(246m, 167b, 8x4)
Tendulkar (batting)    57
(156m, 126b, 7x4)
Extras (B-8, LB-3, W-2, NB-1)    14
Total (for 2 wkts, 82 overs)    292
Fall of wickets: 1-113 (Sehwag), 2-192 (Gambhir).
Bowling: Chris Martin 13-0-58-0 (w-1, nb-1), Tim Southee 13-3-41-1, Andy McKay 18-5-47-0 (w-1), Daniel Vettori 30-3-101-1, Kane Williamson 3-0-18-0, Martin Guptill 5-0-16-0.

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