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India secure first New Zealand series in 41 years

cricket Updated: Apr 07, 2009 23:50 IST
Anand Vasu
Anand Vasu
Hindustan Times
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At exactly 2.08 pm the rain gods settled the issue. New Zealand were eight down and the third and final Test was headed only one way, but India had to settle for a draw and a 1-0 series win. Those who want to nitpick will question the wisdom of India batting on till they pushed the lead past 600. Those looking for elbowroom to criticise will find fault with Mahendra Singh Dhoni not factoring in the rain. For the team, though, they had achieved what they set out to when they left Indian soil — a Test win in New Zealand, something 41 years in the making.

When the final day began, Ross Taylor and James Franklin were charged with batting as long as possible, at least till the rain, which was predicted for early afternoon, came along.

For a time the two kept India's bowlers at bay, with Taylor showing that it was possible to play your natural game even in unnatural circumstances. From a shaky 84 for 4, the pair pushed the score along to 226, with Taylor bringing up his second century in as many matches.

The fast men had done all they could to separate Taylor and Franklin but it was Harbhajan Singh who did the trick, bowling around the stumps to use the combination of drift and spin perfectly. Taylor could do little but york himself as the ball threatened to go away but pitched and came back in to clean up the stumps.

Sachin Tendulkar, who is a reluctant bowler these days, sensed that the game was drifting somewhat and pressed his leg-breaks into service. As you might expect in seriously windy conditions, the odd full toss was served up but his mixture of googlies and flat leg-breaks kept the batsmen, expecially Franklin, guessing.

But it was Brendon McCullum who paid the price, driving hard at a leg-break that spun and appeared to pass the outside edge before being parried to first slip by Dhoni.

McCullum appeared not to make contact with the ball, and his bat certainly hit the ground, but this was enough to lead the umpire into ruling on the side of the bowling team.

There was little doubt about Franklin (49) though as the left-hander played back to a fizzing leg-break and failed to make contact, leaving himself right in front of the stumps.

Soon after, Tim Southee was adjudged caught behind off Harbhajan, although there was some doubt whether he'd hit it, and New Zealand were in serious trouble at 258 for 8.

A what-if moment came when Tendulkar served up a leg-stump full toss, having just stationed Ishant Sharma for the catch at square leg and Iain O' Brien obliged by sweeping the simplest of catches. Ishant fluffed the chance and before there was time to make amends the rain came.

A frustrating wait ensued as the ground staff kept their fingers crossed but there was no let-up in the steady pitter patter and driving winds. A serious wet spell had brought to an end India's 41-year drought. As for the 1-0 scoreline - they'll take it.