India come back from the brink
Auckland, Feb 8 : India made a spirited comeback in the first Test against New Zealand after conceding a 301-run lead in the first innings. They bundled out the hosts for 105 on day three Saturday and were 87 for one chasing a record 407 runs.
Winning the game will be a tough task but the Indian players' spirit will be high going into the final two days. Seventeen wickets fell in what turned out be a roller coaster day with India dismissing the Black Caps cheaply after being bowled out for 202 before lunch.
The visitors started well in the second innings through Shikhar Dhawan (49) who saw out the close of play alongside Cheteshwar Pujara (22).
While the highest run chase (418-7) in Tests was achieved by the West Indies against Australia in 2003, the highest in New Zealand came in 1969 when the West Indies scored 348 for five.
New Zealand can only blame themselves for letting India off the hook. After amassing 503 in the first innings, they made a debatable decision of not enforcing the follow on when they had India on the mat. The move clearly backfired as India cleaned up New Zealand in 41.2 overs shortly post the tea break.
Credit should go to the Indian bowlers who found the right length on a helpful surface after faltering in the first innings.
Fast bowlers Mohammed Shami (3/37), Zaheer Khan (2/23) and Ishant Sharma (3/28) did the maximum damage while lone specialist spinner Ravindra Jadeja (1/10) complimented his bowling with his electric fielding.
So far the ball has swung in the game but Saturday also saw spinners getting a bite off the pitch, encouraging New Zealand leggie Ish Sodhi for the fourth innings.
Barring Ross Taylor (41), the New Zealand batsmen failed to apply themselves.
They were off to a disastrous start and were reduced to 15 for four at lunch.
Shami bowled full and straight to trap Hamish Rutherford in front of the stumps on the sixth ball of the innings.
The batsmen's overtly aggressive approach led to their downfall.
Rutherford's opening partner Peter Fulton (5) was the next to go back. He went for a lofted drive off Shami and Jadeja took a sharp catch at short cover.
Jadeja as usual was a livewire on the field. He took a spectacular catch to dismiss Kane Williamson (3), diving towards the right at short mid-wicket giving Zaheer his first scalp of the innings.
Fortunately for the Indians, the dangerous McCullum (1) did not last long after he was dropped by Murali Vijay at first slip.
Jadeja was in the thick of things soon with an accurate throw from mid-wicket, picked up on the half volley from Ishant, to run out the opposition skipper.
By tea time, New Zealand were 78 for seven and their innings lasted only for 6.2 overs after the break.
Getting past the 100 mark looked tough until Tim Southee (14) and Neil Wanger (15) came up with some blows.
Ishant helped clean up the tail and took his match haul to 9 for 162, the best by an Indian pacer in New Zealand.
The visitors could only bat for 21 overs in the morning session after resuming the day at 130 for four. Rohit Sharma added five to his overnight score to be the top scorer with 72 while Jadeja remained unbeaten on 30.
--IANS (Posted on 08-02-2014)
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