New Zealand get a firm grip over the match
by CricketArchive Staff Reporter
DateLine: 28th March 2009
New Zealand for the third day running stuck to their task and maintained control of the second Test. Threatening partnerships were snubbed shortly before the lunch and tea intervals before New Zealand came out into the final session and polished off the rest of the Indian batting order. India's shot selection was poor but there was no taking away from a dominant New Zealand, who rarely wavered in their lines and produced a sustained fightback. India failed to clear the follow-on mark - they lost their last four wickets for 35 runs after tea - and Daniel Vettori had no hesitation in enforcing the follow-on.
To cap off a good day, New Zealand got rid of Virender Sehwag cheaply again, though it owed more to bad batting that good bowling. Sehwag played another ugly heave across the line to Jeetan Patel and was hit on the back leg, in front of off stump. For the second time in the day Rahul Dravid found himself batting for survival.
The tone had been set in the morning, when Tendulkar and Dravid defied the New Zealand attack. Tendulkar maneuvered the bowlers expertly, opening the face of the bat and using his wrists to open gaps in the field. Vettori pitched it up and he drove, head straight and feet in place; James Franklin offered width and Tendulkar laced him behind point; Martin dug it in and Tendulkar pulled him over square leg. Tendulkar had begun splendidly, essaying an array of shots around the ground and playing with poise until he was undone by his first half-hearted shot of the morning. Patel had been getting him to play strokes and that worked for New Zealand when Tendulkar pushed at one and gave first slip an easy catch.
Meanwhile, Dravid could count himself very lucky that the umpire erred in signaling a no-ball when he edged Vettori to Brendon McCullum on 55. Replays showed it was a legal delivery. New Zealand needed a bit of douse the Dravid-Laxman partnership, and it came in the form of Jesse Ryder. Faced with a massive challenge, Dravid and Laxman had put their heads together on a good batting strip and shared a solid stand before a rash shot from Dravid. Daniel Vettori called on Ryder's military-medium stuff and was rewarded immediately when Dravid chased and edged a short and wide delivery, leaving India 246 for 5. That soon became 253 for 6 when Yuvraj lunged at one from Chris Martin
and edged the second new ball to slip for an 11-ball duck. It was Martin's 150th Test wicket and New Zealand were right back on top.
Until Dravid's error, he and Laxman - the second most successful fifth-wicket pair in Test cricket - looked inseparable. After Tendulkar fell for 49, Dravid was joined by Laxman and they meshed impeccable technique with delicate drives. Laxman's first scoring shot - off his fourth ball - was a beautifully timed clip past midwicket and in the next over he clipped two boundaries off Jeetan Patel with trademark authority. Those three shots early on set the tone for an innings highlighted by dainty footwork, crisp use of the wrists, and elegant shot selection.
Laxman stayed true to his graceful nature as his innings progressed. He handled Vettori and Patel almost effortlessly and even their good deliveries were occasionally driven to cover boundaries. Post lunch, he stepped up the ante.
Dravid had helped India through the first session. With Laxman displaying his full range, Dravid was relentless in his focus until he played that poor shot. To the spinners he either came down to smother the spin or went right back to play with the turn. Against the faster bowlers he played straight and left with confidence. It was thus surprising that he chased a wide one when on 83.
Laxman put Iain O'Brien away for consecutive boundaries only to steer an outswinger from Martin to the waiting slip cordon for 76. Harbhajan Singh came in and threw his bat around for a perky 18 from 11 balls, including one rollicking six off O'Brien over midwicket, but the bowler had the last laugh when Harbhajan picked out deep square leg. A snorter of a catch by Ryder at gully had Zaheer Khan next ball and the innings had folded at 305. India had resisted, in bursts, but New Zealand fought back harder with a flurry of wickets.