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Dial number 42

Sachin Tendulkar's 42nd Test century was the engine that drove India's relentless forward press as a string of partnerships swelled India's lead to 241. Anand Vasu reports.

cricket Updated: Mar 20, 2009 23:59 IST
Anand Vasu

India began the third day with positive intent and ended it with positive execution, leaving just one team with a realistic chance of winning this Test. Sachin Tendulkar's 42nd Test century was the engine that drove India's relentless forward press as a string of partnerships swelled India's lead to 241. Just as the batsmen had followed the success of the bowlers in the first dig, the bowlers kept up the good work, prising out three wickets. With two days of play left, New Zealand need a small miracle, or plenty of rain to keep defeat at bay.

Even before this Test began, talk centred around how crucial the first session would be. By that count it's no surprise that India are in such a strong position. On the opening day, New Zealand were 61 for 6 at lunch; on day two India lost one wicket and scored 79 runs in the first session with Gautam Gambhir and Rahul Dravid being appropriately measured. On the third day, Tendulkar walked out with no preconceived notions, saw the ball well, found the opportunities and picked off early boundaries.

Even the fall of Yuvraj, shouldering arms to Chris Martin, did not interrupt the flow. Tendulkar’s trademark straight and on-drives boomed off the blade and forced the bowlers to ensure that they were not too straight. This opened up the cut shot and Tendulkar's rasping blade was severe any time width was on offer.

MS Dhoni has never claimed his batting is pleasing to the eye, but increasingly he is making it a habit to get the job done. When he walked out to the middle, India’s lead was just 35, and had he fallen early, New Zealand's bowlers would have been into the tail while still relatively fresh. Despite not striking the ball too cleanly — save for a brief spell when he took on Martin — Dhoni ensured that Tendulkar had a stable platform from which to keep the scoreboard ticking over. The pair added 115 for the sixth wicket before Dhoni (47) was caught down the leg side gloving an attempted hook off Iain O' Brien.

Tendulkar, looking well on the way to yet another double hundred, attempted to exploit the sparsely populated leg side with a typical fetch from outside the off for a single but failed to make clean contact and presented O' Brien with another big wicket via a catch at slip. Tendulkar's 160 had come from nearly seven hours of controlled Test match batting and the tail wagged merrily through Zaheer Khan (51*) to boost India to 520. Zaheer then picked up his 200th Test scalp, sending Tim McIntosh packing. When Martin Guptill (48) chipped Harbhajan straight to Sehwag at mid-off and nightwatchman Kyle Mills could not move pad out of the way of a full straight Munaf Patel delivery, India's day ended sweetly.