India record first Test win in New Zealand in 33 years
India broke a 33-year drought when a six-wicket haul by Harbhajan Singh spun them to a 10-wicket victory over New Zealand in the first Test in Hamilton on Saturday. Full Scorecard | Special: The Kiwi Challenge | See pics | Listen to podcastcricket Updated: Mar 22, 2009 02:14 IST
Zaheer Khan stood at the top of his mark about to begin a fresh over. Munaf Patel at mid-on and Ishant Sharma, at mid-off, chattered away and burst into audible laughter, while Zaheer joined in with a quiet smile. It was a moment that typified the day. India's three-pronged seam attack was given the luxury of enjoying themselves by Harbhajan Singh, who bowled India to their first Test win in New Zealand in 33 years.
That India won inside four days was not remarkable in itself. What was surprising, though, was the air of inevitability that had spread around Seddon Park, with a mostly Indian Saturday crowd watching the action pan out. It was not so much a case of history repeating itself — offspinner Erapalli Prasanna had taken 8 for 76 in the second innings as India roared to an eight-wicket win back in 1976 — but the case of the last gear clicking into place in a well-oiled machine.
The batsmen and seamers had played their part in the first three days of the Test, and when New Zealand began the fourth day on 75 for 3, Harbhajan showed just why he is rated so highly. With a spring in his step and a smile on his face Harbhajan began to vary his loop and flight subtly yet effectively. While he has become a master at keeping one end tight, Harbhajan on Saturday reminded everyone that he was also a clever practitioner of a difficult art.
After Munaf had Ross Taylor caught at point, slashing at a wide delivery, Harbhajan set to work on Jesse Ryder. A beautifully constructed over where the angles and speed of delivery drew Ryder across his stumps slowly but steadily culminated in a well-flighted ball that pitched in line and just about straightened enough to miss bat. Ryder, who was flummoxed by the flight, had his back foot in front of middle stump when it interrupted the ball's trajectory.
James Franklin was suckered by a ball that Harbhajan held back and had committed to the stroke without getting close to the pitch of the ball, presenting point with a simple catch. Daniel Flynn, (67) who had provided the staunchest resistance till he fell, could only watch in dismay as an edge went to the close-in fielder off pad.
At 161 for 7 Daniel Vettori and Brendon McCullum stood together as the last line of defence. Harbhajan stomped to a five-for, pushing Vettori back in his crease and cramping him for room, drawing an inside edge to Dhoni. McCullum (84) found an able ally in Iain O' Brien (14) and the two added 76 for the ninth wicket before Harabhajan removed the fast bowler.
With New Zealand having achieved a slender lead, McCullum decided to hit out when No. 11 Chris Martin walked out to the middle. However, McCullum's attempted heave off Yuvraj only went straight up in the air and into the hands of Laxman. Gambhir and Dravid (Sehwag was temporarily indisposed and unavailable to open) knocked off the runs with ease.