India edging closer to series win

India were closing in on their first Test series victory in New Zealand since 1968 as they extended their lead to 233 runs at the close of play on the second day of the third and final Test on Saturday.

The visitors, who hold a 1-0 series lead after a 10-wicket victory in the first game in Hamilton, were 51 for one at the close after Zaheer Khan’s seventh five-wicket haul helped bowl the hosts out for 197 in their first innings.

Zaheer finished with five for 65 from 18 overs as New Zealand conceded a 182-run lead after they had bowled India out for 379 earlier in the day.

The visitors extended that lead with only the loss of explosive opener Virender Sehwag, who blasted three boundaries in his seven-ball innings of 12.

Sehwag was caught by first slip Ross Taylor when a vicious bouncer from Chris Martin brushed his glove.

Gautam Gambhir was on 28 while Rahul Dravid was on nine as the shadows lengthened across the ground.

New Zealand reverts back from daylight saving time on Sunday, which will undoubtedly shorten the remaining days’ play by at least 30 minutes in the fading light.

Zaheer took advantage of a blustery northerly wind to produce some swing and sharp bounce, though New Zealand’s batsmen did not help themselves with poor shot making.

”He had an extra yard on his, looking up at the screen it was his normal speed, but he bent his back and hurried the batsmen up a little bit,” New Zealand’s Taylor said of Zaheer’s bowling. ”He bowled extremely well.

”Only batting 65 overs is very disappointing and also not giving our bowlers enough rest is also disappointing,” he added.

Follow on avoided
India had a chance of enforcing the follow on after tea when Tim Southee (16) mistimed a hook off Zaheer, who took the skied catch for his fifth wicket and left New Zealand 160 for eight.

Iain O’Brien (19) and Brendon McCullum (24), however, guided the hosts past the 180 needed to make India bat again when O’Brien sent a thick edge past gully for a boundary.

McCullum was then virtually immediately dismissed by Harbhajan Singh with the score on 181 to become wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s fifth catch of the innings.

Harbhajan also dismissed Taylor (42) and James Franklin (15), while Ishant Sharma and Munaf Patel grabbed one each.

Munaf’s dismissal of O’Brien was Dhoni’s sixth catch, which helped the captain equal the record for the most dismissals in an innings between the two countries.

Compatriot Syed Kirmani took five catches and made a stumping in Christchurch in February 1976.

Earlier, Zaheer had dismissed Martin Guptill (17) and Daniel Flynn (two) before lunch and captured the wickets of Tim McIntosh (32) and Jesse Ryder (three) in the afternoon session to destroy New Zealand’s top order before tea.

Three of his five-wicket hauls have come against New Zealand.

India’s first innings ended in just the third over of the day when Sharma edged a catch behind off Martin to McCullum for 18, leaving Munaf unbeaten on 15.

Martin finished with 4-98 in India’s first innings. — Reuters

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