Nagpur: Harbhajan Singh and Ishant Sharma picked up 3 wickets each while Pragyan Ojha and Suresh Raina too captured a couple of scalps a piece as India walloped New Zealand by an innings and 198 runs in the third and final Test at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium on Tuesday to win the series 1-0.
Unlike the first two games of the series, when both the sides played out pretty evenly contested draws, this was a game where India lived up to their Numero Uno status and showed the eighth placed visitors how difficult it can be to stand firm in front of a mighty Indian line-up in full flow.
For the stats lovers, this is India’s first innings victory in a Test against New Zealand since the 1955-56 season.
Having conceded a massive first innings lead of 373, New Zealand started the fourth day’s play precariously placed at 24/1, still needing another 349 runs to make the Indians bat again.
Both Harbhajan and Ojha, who had looked out of touch during the entire series, suddenly found form and began to dictate terms. The ball was spinning sharply and some of the deliveries were also keeping a little low, sending tremors through the Kiwi camp.
Having added just 14 runs, the Kiwis lost the crucial wicket of Brendon McCullum for 25, setting the tone of play for the rest of the day, which saw the Indian bowlers completely dominate and the visiting batsmen struggling to come to terms with the prodigiously turning track.
Martin Guptill (0) departed on Ojha’s first delivery of the next over, leaving the bowler with a hat-trick chance. Although the Kiwi batsmen tried to break the shackles with Ross Taylor managing to connect a few but the sequence of falling wickets did not stop.
Wicketkeeper Gareth Hopkins (8), who was struggling since the start of his innings, was the next man to depart after he was brilliantly caught by Gautam Gambhir at short leg off Harbhajan.
Bhajji picked up another scalp in the form of Taylor (29), although TV replays could not confirm the inside edge that was smartly lapped up by substitute fielder Cheteshwar Pujara.
Kane Williamson (8), Jesse Ryder (22) and Daniel Vettori (13) too succumbed to the pressure in quick succession as New Zealand went in to lunch at 140/8 with the prospect of an embarrassing defeat looming large.
Shortly after lunch, Ishant Sharma completed the formalities as he bowled Tim Southee (31) and Chris Martin (0) on consecutive deliveries, triggering wild celebrations amongst the crowd.
It was a near perfect Test for the Indians with out of form Gambhir too scoring some runs and all the bowlers, Ishant, Harbhajan and Ojha, picking up wickets. The series win meant that India haven’t lost a series now since going down to Sri Lanka back in 2008.