Cricket: Display gives Black Caps heart for finale

By David Leggat

To absolutely no one's surprise, a gentle McLean Park pitch had the final say in the second test yesterday, but New Zealand will head to Wellington feeling significantly better about themselves than they did a week ago.

The draw - with play called off 17 overs early - means India can't lose the three-test series when it concludes at the Basin Reserve from Friday. However, New Zealand will feel they are in with a decent chance of squaring it after an encouraging display.

At the finish, India were 476 for four, ahead by 162 overall after a day which produced 224 runs and two wickets off 73 overs. The test produced 1400 runs and just 23 wickets.

New Zealand's bowlers, for all their honest endeavours, managed only three wickets in the final two days as India's batsmen did a solid job of saving the match.

After being done over in the first test at Hamilton from the first session, New Zealand regained respect and a dose of self belief with their display over the first three days in Napier.

Over that time they dominated a poor Indian side, but the pitch was always going to be their friend as they went about rescuing the match.

So New Zealand will arrive in Wellington bolstered by some strong batting and aware India possess a dodgy tail, if only New Zealand's bowlers can get to them in time to make it count.

The day began encouragingly when Chris Martin got Sachin Tendulkar to drive away from his body and edge a catch behind in the fifth over of the day.

But they needed to keep chipping away with wickets at regular intervals. However, opener Gautam Gambhir hid the chisel. He carried on where he'd left off and glued himself to the crease through the morning and into the afternoon.

He didn't appear worried about runs, which was just as well seeing as he got only 17 from 84 balls before lunch. But his imperative was to lock New Zealand out and, as stodgy as he was at times, he deserved a gong for concentration and resolve.

VVS Laxman was similarly untroubled, but more adventurous in his strokeplay and the further the pair pressed on, on a pitch which would have lasted another five days, the heavier New Zealand's tread became in the outfield.

Gambhir should have gone at 125 when Iain O'Brien dropped a howler at mid on, straight to him in a gentle arc, off captain Dan Vettori.

O'Brien looked crestfallen, and his widely-read blog should be worth a look today. He stood apart from his teammates at the drinks break shortly after as if he'd been fingered for delivering a socially unmentionable smell among the group.

Gambhir's marathon finally ended at 137, half an hour before tea, lbw to offspinner Jeetan Patel in a tight call.

He'd batted 642 minutes, the seventh longest innings by an Indian in tests, faced 436 balls and hit 18 fours.

Long, but not the longest in New Zealand. That dubious honour still rests with Shoaib Mohammad's 163 over 720 minutes for Pakistan at Wellington 20 years ago.

However, Gambhir's stand of 96 with Laxman had shut the door on the faint New Zealand hopes.

Post-tea, the only mild interest was in Laxman's 100, his 14th, which came amid a flurry of superb strokes, and some free hitting from Yuvraj Singh.

But the sting had long gone from the contest by then.


New Zealand
First innings 619

First innings 305
Second innings (252-2 overnight)
G Gambhir lbw b Patel 137
V Sehwag lbw b Patel 22
R Dravid c How b Vettori 62
S Tendulkar c McCullum b Martin 64
VVS Laxman not out 124
Y Singh not out 54
Extras (9b, 1lb, 3nb) 13

Total (for 4 wkts, 180 overs) 476

Fall: 30 (Sehwag), 163 (Dravid), 260 (Tendulkar), 356 (Gambhir)

Bowling: C Martin 30-8-86-1 (1nb), I O'Brien 32-9-94-0 (1nb), J Franklin 21-5-48-0, J Patel 45-10-120-2, J Ryder 11-5-38-0, D Vettori 38-13-76-1 (1nb), R Taylor 2-1-4-0, J How 1-1-0-0.

Result: Match drawn, India lead three-test series 1-0.
Man of the match: Jesse Ryder (New Zealand)

- NZ Herald

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