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Zaheer zaps Kiwis as India take control of Test

Zaheer Khan ripped through the New Zealand top order to leave the Kiwis tottering at 41 for three.

india Updated: Oct 10, 2003 00:01 IST

There’s no such thing as too much of a good thing. And on Thursday, India were doubly blessed. First, the incredible Rahul Dravid decided that he would better his best ever score of 217 before he made his way back to the pavilion (he made 222) and then, Zaheer Khan conjured himself a belated birthday present out of nowhere.

This wicket has nothing much in it for the bowlers and if you ask the New Zealand attack, they’ll probably say it had nothing at all. So where and how the King Khan managed to find life in the wicket, only he knows. But after Sourav Ganguly boldly declared on exactly 500 for five (just as he himself got his 100), Zaheer shattered the Kiwi top order.

About half an hour into the Kiwi’s essay with the bat, the scoreboard read 17 for three. Mark Richardson, Lou Vincent and Stephen Fleming were back in the pavilion. Strike three to Zaheer.

But this came later. First, let’s get back to Dravid. The man is quite incredible and especially over the past year, it has seemed like the only way he’ll get away from the wicket is when he feels he’s had enough. Unfortunately for the rather wretched New Zealand team, on this hot and still Thursday, Dravid took a long time to make up his mind.

India’s man for all seasons made the Kiwis boil and toil with much success, as India slowly accumulated a huge total —- the only black mark being the loss of VVS Laxman’s wicket. Even given the helpful nature of the wicket? It was flat and brown —- there’s no taking away from Dravid’s superb knock. He was confidence personified as he went about his chanceless knock, keeping the scoreboard ticking, waiting for the loose ball, seemingly unaffected by the heat.

And he was ably assisted for most of the day by his captain.

Ganguly probably came out to bat under a lot of pressure, given the criticism over his performances in Tests these past two seasons (even if this was home).

He needed a big score here to give himself some confidence ahead of the long season ahead. He was also probably in a lot of pain because of the abscess in the upper region of his left thigh, because of which he dropped down the order.

He made a very tentative start. He looked scratchy and uncertain, sometimes seeming to almost blindly push at deliveries, unsure of what to do.

He took 13 balls for his first run (a four over point), another 22 for his next boundary (past square leg) and 50 more balls for his third. It was a very unlike a Ganguly start. But once he got his eye in, the body language said it all, as did the assured strokeplay. There was a different, more familiar, confident man at the crease. Especially in Indian conditions.

Anyway, if body language is any indication of how someone is feeling, then the Kiwis are pretty much a spent force at the moment. The wicket was unhelpful, the batsmen were on a roll and the tired bunch that gratefully hobbled off the field at teatime, appeared to have run out of both energy and ideas. Dravid and Ganguly had put on 118 at almost four an over in the time between lunch and tea and all the Kiwis’ exhaustive planning over months had obviously come unstuck.

Incidentally, the 182-run fifth-wicket stand between the Indian captain and vice-captain, which ended in the over after tea when Dravid smacked Jacob Oram for two successive fours and was then caught behind off a casual push, was the highest for this wicket against the Kiwis. The previous best was nearly 50 years ago, when GS Ramchand and Vijay Manjrekar put on 127 in Delhi in 1955-56.

At the fall of Dravid’s wicket though, Motera erupted. The crowd here is pretty sparse, but the bunch congregated here made enough noise for a gathering 10 times the number.

Even as they saluted Dravid walking off, in walked Parthiv Patel, who’s probably the only thing that unites this polarized city at the moment.

The teenager played a gem of a cameo, hitting five fours in his unbeaten 29, almost taunting the Kiwis with his impish flair. He later took a brilliant diving catch to his right (his wrong side) off Zaheer to have Vincent back in the pavilion, so Ahmedabad will party tonight.

New Zealand will begin Day Three at 41 for three. It’s going to take something extraordinary from Scott Styris and Nathan Astle to give the Kiwis a chance of even saving the match from here. And perhaps even extraordinary might not be enough. This Indian team looks on fire.

The very fact that Sourav Ganguly declared the Indian innings much earlier than one could visualise indicates the new aggressive, confident mindset of the team.

It was a bold decision that the past Indian captains have rarely ventured into. Unlike in the past when safety first has been the Indian motto, the present lot is willing to take a few risks in an effort to win a match.

New Zealand

Stephen Fleming, Mark Richardson, Nathan Astle, Lou Vincent, Scott Styris, Craig McMillan, Jacob Oram, Robbie Hart, Daniel Vettori, Daryl Tuffey, Paul WisemanIan Butler (12th man)


SouravGanguly, SachinTendulkar, VirenderSehwag, Akash Chopra, Rahul Dravid, Venkatsai Laxman, ParthivPatelHarbhajanSingh, ZaheerKhan, Anil Kumble, Laxmipathy Balaji, Yuvraj Singh (12th man)


First Published: Oct 09, 2003 10:19 IST