Half-centurians put India in driving seat

Chayan Rastogi/Zeecric.com

Nagpur: It rained half-centuries on second day from Indian top-order batsmen, as all four Indian players who batted, cracked fifties to put India in commanding position very early in the third and final Test here at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium.

All four top-order batsmen- Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar- looked in sublime touch, punishing all New Zealand bowlers and taking India to crucial 99-run lead for the loss of just two wickets at the end of second day.

Tendulkar and Dravid, India’s most run-getting pair in Test cricket, shared an unbeaten 100-run partnership for the third wicket and were batting on 57 and 69 respectively, when bad light stopped play.

Tendulkar’s fifty was the most celebrated by roaring Nagpur crowd as the ace batsman is looking all-set to notch-up his 50th Test ton on third day. Tendulkar stroked seven boundaries in his knock and looked firm to make a big score.

Dravid also looked in fine touch as he never let his strike rate dip too much and was able to pierce gaps at ease. Dravid stroked eight crispy boundaries during his stay and formed solid partnerships in the middle with first Gambhir and then Tendulkar.

Coming into the team after injuries and battling form-slump, Indian opener Gautam Gambhir also made the most of fragile Kiwi attack and posted his 13th overall and second consecutive half-century, to put India on course while chasing New Zealand’s first inning score of 193 runs

Gambhir completed his fifty in 90 balls and went onto score 78 runs with 12 hits to the fence and first shared 113-run first wicket partnership with Sehwag and then 79-run partnership with Dravid.

Gambhir looked more confident in his half-century than he has in previous innings in this series but was denied hundred by Kiwi bowler Tim Southee, who also gave some hard time to Sachin Tendulkar by bowling short-pitch stuff.

But unfazed by Kiwi bowling, Sehwag batted like the way he always do and posted yet-another quick fifty, scoring 74 runs in 73 balls with 11 hits to the fence and a six to give India a solid start in the pre-lunch session.

But just when it looked that Sehwag was looking for a big three figure mark, Kiwi skipper Daniel Vettori dismissed Sehwag against the run of play.

Sehwag, who was looking brutal after the lunch break, wasn’t able to read the top-spin on the ball and played early, resulting in an easy caught and bowled chance by the bowler.

Earlier today, lanky speedster Ishant Sharma celebrated his Test recall in style as he picked two of remaining three New Zealand wickets on second day morning to restrict Kiwis to a paltry score of 193.

Ishant first dismissed dangerous Brendon McCullum to dent Kiwi hopes of building a good total, as he got McCullum to edge a perfect off-stump line ball to wicketkeeper Dhoni’s gloves.

McCullum, who got hurt during practice drills on first morning and batted lower down the order, was looking to score quick runs but was undone by Ishant’s brilliant seam bowling.

Ishant then sneaked through debutant McKay’s defence as he fired down a mighty inswinger to crash into McKay’s stumps.

With only last wicket left, Tim Southee decided to cut lose and took Harbhajan to cleaners for two sixes and a boundary in one over. Southee also slapped Ojha for a mighty six over long-on but the Hyderabad spinner had the last smile as he got the batsman to top-edge a flighted delivery to mid wicket where Virender Sehwag made no mistake to take a well-judged high catch.

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