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Feisty Bhajji turns into a batting master

Unless someone else comes up with something extraordinary, Harbhajan Singh's unexpected exploits with the bat are likely to be the most unforgettable memories of this India-New Zealand Test series. Atreyo Mukhopadhyay reports.

cricket Updated: Nov 15, 2010 23:45 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay

Unless someone else comes up with something extraordinary, Harbhajan Singh's unexpected exploits with the bat are likely to be the most unforgettable memories of this India-New Zealand Test series. His tally of 295 also makes him the highest run-getter in this contest so far.

It was no secret that the feisty Sardar knows how to bat. Before this series, he had over 1600 runs with seven half-centuries including four against Australia made in adverse conditions. But back-to-back Test centuries was too much. That it was a rare instance of a No. 8 batsman achieving this feat makes it remarkable.

"He was brilliant. It is because of him that we are in a good position. He has been very serious about his batting at nets from the start of this series ," VVS Laxman said after the fourth day here.

Harbhajan is among the handful of cricketers always under scrutiny. Even if doesn't get wickets on the first day of a Test match, not the best day for spinners, his ability is questioned. Few remember that he is second on the all-time list of off-spinners with most wickets. His 373 wickets in 88 Tests including this one puts him only behind Muthiah Muralitharan.

That he got just one wicket in the first Test on an unresponsive Ahmedabad pitch was talked about almost as widely as his century there. Few appreciated that Harbhajan took 11 wickets in two Tests against Australia shortly before that. He took four wickets in the first innings of the second Test against New Zealand too.

As if to prove that he cares little when fingers are pointed at his bowling and takes pride in bailing his team out, Harbhajan on Monday completed one the most exciting centuries seen in India in recent times. New Zealand placed fielders in the deep and he still kept carting the ball around to smash seven sixes and as many fours in his 116-ball 111 not out.

It was not surprising to see Harbhajan attack. There might be holes in his defence but he has always been a clean striker of the ball with good timing. What came as a surprise was his tenacity to stay in the middle long enough to get a hundred. That what is long enough for him is shorter than most others' ensured an entertaining by-product of his heroics.