Zaheer burst leaves Kiwis reeeling

Posted on: April 4, 2009

Zaheer Khan claimed four wickets to give India the upperhand against New Zealand on day two of the third and final Test in Wellington, on Saturday.

Zaheer ran through the Kiwi top order to claim four for 46 as New Zealand were reduced to 140 for seven in reply to India’s first innings score of 379.

Ross Taylor was the only batsman to offer some resistance with a solid 42 before he was unluckily ruled out caught down the leg side off Harbhajan Singh , who claimed two for 23 in 16 overs.

At tea on the second day, Brendon McCullum [Images] was not out on 7 and Tim Southee on 1, with the hosts needing another 40 runs to avoid the follow-on.

Morning session: (68 runs, 25.1 overs, 3 wickets)

Resuming on 375 for nine, India’s first innings lasted for just 10 minutes before Ishant Sharma was caught behind by wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum off Chris Martin for 18.

The visitors added just four runs on the second day and lasted 13 deliveries before being bowled out for 379 as Munaf Patel was left stranded on 15.

India must thank their lower order for taking them to this score after they were reeling at 283 for seven at one stage. The last three wickets added 106 runs between them as the tailenders proved their worth with the bat after the top order batsmen failed to carry on after getting starts.

Martin finished as the most successful bowler, claiming four for 98 in 25.1 overs, while Tim Southee and Ian O’Brien took 2-94 and 2-89 respectively.

(New Zealand innings)

Both Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma started off well and stuck to a good line and length making the batsman play as much as possible. With not much help from the pitch, the two pacers were looking to use of the windy conditions at the Basin Reserve.

Zaheer had a huge leg before shout turned down against Tim McIntosh in the fifth over of the innings as the batsman was struck in line with the stumps but having the bat close to the pads saved him.

Martin Guptill looked comfortable right from the outset and brought up his first boundary in the sixth over when he lashed Ishant through point.

Zaheer toiled patiently and was rewarded when he went round the wicket and forced Guptill to chop a short delivery onto his stumps for 17.

McIntosh broke the shackles somewhat with consecutive boundaries off Ishant in the eighth over to move to 12.

Zaheer then put New Zealand in some early trouble when he claimed the wicket of Daniel Flynn for 2. The left-hander tried to defend one that pitched just outside the off-stump and swung out, taking the edge straight to wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni

Ishant didn’t seem to find his rhythm bowling into the wind and was replaced by Munaf Patel after a spell of four overs. While Zaheer was using the wind to his advantage, Munaf was concentrating on just keeping it tight and bowling a tight line and length.

Munaf bowled a probing spell of five overs, giving away just eight runs, before he was replaced by Harbhajan Singh.

While McIntosh seemed to content defending everything that came his way, Ross Taylor came out with a positive frame of mind but soon found himself also tied down by the Indian bowlers.

At the lunch interval, New Zealand reached 64 for two in 23 overs with McIntosh on 24 (62 deliveries, 4 boundaries) and Taylor on 17 (45 deliveries, 3 boundaries).

Zaheer used the windy conditions to his advantage as he claimed two for 18 in eight overs, while the rest of the bowlers kept a tight line and length.

Post lunch session: (76 runs, 27 overs, 5 wickets)

It was Zaheer who did the trick for India after the lunch break.

McIntosh was beaten by the extra bounce from the left-armer, which he could only edge it straight to first slip. The left-hander never looked at home during his knock of 32 from 74 deliveries before being undone by Zaheer.

A few quiet overs followed before Taylor broke the shackles with a cracking boundary through the covers to move to 33.

New Zealand’s hero of the series Jesse Ryder then disappointed when a rather careless shot caused his downfall for 3. The left-hander tried to slash a short delivery from Zaheer over the slips but got a fine edge which was taken by wicketkeeper Dhoni.

James Franklin walked in at number six but right from the outset he looked all at sea. Things suddenly came to a standstill for New Zealand as the Indian bowlers dried up the runs with hosts reaching 120 for four in 41 overs.

Harbhajan then compounded New Zealand’s woes by claiming the key wicket of Taylor for 42. Harbhajan pitched one around the leg stump which Taylor tried to play fine down the leg side but could only edge it behind which was neatly taken by Dhoni. However, closer look at the replays indicated that the ball had missed the bat and hit the thigh pad instead.

Franklin ran out of patience before sweeping Harbhajan straight to Sehwag at square leg. The left-hander made 15 from 42 deliveries but never looked comfortable in the middle as New Zealand slipped to 125 for six.

Daniel Vettori showed his intent immediately as he took on Ishant’s short deliveries and smashed a boundary and six through the third man region in the 45th over.

However, Ishant extracted revenge in his next over. The pacer beat Vettori with another short delivery but this time it was much close to the batsman who could only edge it behind for 11.

Dhoni immediately realised that the best chance of bundling out New Zealand before the follow-on target of 180 was to keep Brendon McCullum in check. The Indian captain immediately spread his field around when McCullum came on strike, but once Tim Southee took strike everyone surrounded him.

At the tea break on day two, New Zealand reached 140 for seven in 50 overs, still trailing India’s first innings score by 239 runs.

It was Zaheer, who single-handedly turned the match in India’s favour, with two-wicket bursts on either side of the lunch interval for impressive figures of four for 46 in 14 overs. Harbhajan came up with another impressive performance bowling 14 consecutive overs in the second session for figures of two for 23 in 16 overs.

It is now only McCullum who represents New Zealand’s best chance of avoiding the follow-on, but one is pretty sure that even if they don’t manage it, India will choose to bat again.


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