Gambhir, Laxman pour water on NZ hopes
India's formidable batsmen showed remarkable tenacity as the visitors returned from the brink of disaster to save the second cricket Test and maintain their 1-0 lead in the three-match series against NZ in Napier.cricket Updated: Mar 30, 2009 23:43 IST
The scoreline suggests that neither team got anything from the five days of toil on a flat McLean Park pitch, but both India and New Zealand will realise the significance of what was not achieved in the second Test. The visitors came into the game with all the momentum and more than a sniff of history. The home team are a proud lot and don’t like being taken lightly, especially in their own backyard, and put in such a strong performance that India were the ones smiling when they walked away with a draw.
Traditionally, it is practice in the nets that prepares you for what happens out in the middle. On the final day, the tables were turned as India’s batsmen had little to do in terms of taking the game forward and merely needed to bat as though they were having a long net. And length was something Gautam Gambhir managed quite nicely, showing that he was not going to throw his wicket away just because he had got to a century on Sunday. Barring a chipped catch to Iain O’ Brien at mid-on which was obligingly put down, Gambhir was a picture of concentration. Even when Sachin Tendulkar (62) nibbled at a widish delivery from Chris Martin to be caught behind, Gambhir soldiered on.
V.V.S. Laxman had told fans to expect a special effort from the Indian batting line-up in the second dig and he backed up words with glorious strokeplay and tight defence.
Gambhir had stretched his vigil to 642 minutes before he was sent back, courtesy a borderline leg before decision. By this stage, though, Gambhir (137) had done his bit, pushing the Indian lead to 42. Laxman (124 not out) had begun to find the boundaries with regularity and when he drove O’ Brien through extra-cover, Harbhajan Singh led the Indian dressing room in bowing in respect to the master batsman’s 14th Test ton.
Yuvraj Singh decided that offence was the best form of defence and took on the bowlers. In 63 balls he had reached 54 with 10 fours, three of which came in one Jesse Ryder over, when both teams decided enough was enough. India were on 474 for 4.
All eyes are on Wellington now, with both teams desperate to force a result. The Basin Reserve has a reputation for assisting the bowlers a bit. For India, nothing short of a series win will bring satisfaction, and New Zealand know even a win will only level the series. The destiny of the final Test might just lie with this difference of opportunities, for there will be no shortage of hunger in the Indian camp.