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India strike early to grab advantage in series decider

Sreesanth's Test career is over four years old. Although his talent was never in doubt, the Kerala speedster got involved in unwanted incidents so many times that his durability at the highest level often became a subject of speculation. Atreyo Mukhopadhyay reports.

cricket Updated: Nov 21, 2010 02:15 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay

Sreesanth's Test career is over four years old. Although his talent was never in doubt, the Kerala speedster got involved in unwanted incidents so many times that his durability at the highest level often became a subject of speculation.

With the team desperate for a win in the absence of Zaheer Khan and New Zealand winning an important toss, a lot depended on what India did with the new ball on the first day of the final Test. Capitalising on the early inroads made by Sreesanth, they reached a position, which few expected them to when play began on Saturday after a long delay.

New Zealand were jolted minutes before the toss when Brendon McCullum suffered back spasms and did not open. Daniel Vettori still opted to bat hoping McCullum wouldn't be required in the 70 overs scheduled for the day, only to find his team trapped in a spot with the batsman pressed into action after just 28 overs.

Little pointed towards what was to come when the bowlers started proceedings in a wayward manner. The new ball didn't beat the bat even once in the first six overs.

The ball of the day opened the floodgates. Sreesanth got one to swing away late from an awkward length and forced Martin Guptill to edge it behind the stumps.

The left-handed Tim McIntosh was done in by a ball he thought was angling away from him. The ball straightened fractionally to sneak through his defence.

With the openers gone by the ninth over and the fast bowlers not going for cheap runs, India were in a perfect position to increase pressure. Ishant Sharma ensured that after changing ends, by beating Ross Taylor with some inward movement off the pitch, which caught the batsman in front.

The odd ball was turning sharply but it was still important for the spinners to bring the batsmen forward and Pragyan Ojha did just that when he beat Kane Williamson in flight for the right-hander to spoon a simple catch to short extra-cover.

Vettori made a mess of an attempted pull and dragged one onto the stumps from well outside off. The Indians tried the short ball bait against him earlier in this series and Vettori had escaped despite miscuing the pull a few times. This was not his day.

After having toiled for 428.1 overs for 29 wickets in the first two Tests, India had suddenly got five in a matter of just 17 overs.

McCullum soldiered on despite being in obvious discomfort and the sight of him limping between wickets was an apt reflection of the state his team was in. New Zealand have come back from tight situations in this series, but India will hate it if they let the advantage slip when play resumes at 9 am on Sunday.