T2D3 Ind-NZ: Harbhajan wrests back India's advantage

T2D3 Ind-NZ: Harbhajan wrests back India's advantage

Post by R Bharat Ra » Tue, 16 Nov 2010 09:15:21

The day began with a very sharp catch by Taylor to remove Tendulkar.
It was a most uncharacteristic shot by the little master --
reminiscent of the impetuous dismissals of a decade ago as he tried to
smash a tantalizingly flighted delivery from Vettori across the line
-- these are the kind of shots he has all but eliminated from his
armory in his resurgence.  Then came a period of careful
consolidation.  Both Dravid and Laxman put away the shots, and just
waited for the bad ball, trying to play mostly risk-free cricket until
the bad balls game.  However, some excellent ground fielding by the
Kiwi saved several runs throughout the day, and the scoreboard mostly
crawled as India added just 60 runs in the morning session.  Still,
all appeared to be going to plan for India.

The second new ball, as it often does, caused the scoring rate to
increase.  A caress through cover by Laxman is my vote for the shot of
the series so far.  At 257/3, India looked to have the match
completely in hand with Dravid & Laxman in their 40s and looking to up
the rate.  But Southee got one to nip in slightly as Dravid tried to
play around his pad, and was plumb lbw.  Raina came in and played some
absolutely superb shots, showing his immense talent -- a cover drive
against Vettori was the standout and he motored to 20 off 29 balls.
He then proceeded to demonstrate that his temperament is still
completely unsuited to Test cricket.  For the third time in 4 Tests he
proceeded to completely throw it away when a big Test score was there
for the taking.  Vettori put a man in deep mid-wicket, tossed the ball
up, and Raina played an almighty slog with his head in the air, and
predictably hit the ball a mile high, but right down the throat of
that fielder.  Vettori and others were having a hard time hiding their
amu***t as Raina trudged off.  Still with Dhoni & a well-set Laxman
(74) at the crease, at 323/5 at tea, just 27 behind, India seemed well
set to get at least a hundred run lead.

Right after tea, Laxman fell playing across the line of a gentle
Martin incutter; a simple lapse in concentration.  I'm as big a fan as
any of Laxman, but this exemplifies why it is hard to rate VVSL along
with the other 3 batsman as a potential ATG.  16 Test hundreds in 191
innings is far too few for a batsman of his world-class ability.  His
50's rate (this was his 64th 50 or higher score) of a 50 34% of the
time, fits right in with Tendulkar (38%), Dravid (35%) and Sehwag
(32%).  But his tons rate of 8% is significantly lower than that of
Dravid (12%), Sehwag (15%) and Tendulkar (17%).  Us Laxman fans have
to be content with him playing crisis innings whenever needed, and
hope he gets a late career surge like Tendulkar has.  A series of
quick dismissals followed, Dhoni playing the softest of lobs to cover,
Zaheer trying to hook a bouncer from outside off ala Viv Richards, and
when Ojha ran himself out in a yes-no call it was 367/9.

In short, India's vaunted batting had done its worst to fritter away
the solid platform laid by the openers, but a stunning late *** by
Harbhajan wrested back a decisive advantage for India.  For most of
the day NZ bowled and fielded with great heart, and the great ground
fielding probably saved a good 40 runs.

In T1 Harbhajan had batted with circumspection, with scoring rates of
71 and sub-60.  This was the Harbhajan we are used to where he flung
his bat at everything that the Kiwis threw at him.  Just as Williamson
and McCullum were mentally preparing themselves to face 20-odd overs
from the Indians, they got pure mayhem from Harbhajan. A few shots
fell fortuitously in the gaps, but for the most part everything was
smoked from the middle of the bat -- and not just with raw power,
mixed in were shots that a top-order batsman would have been proud
of.  7 4's and 5 6's!  And he shielded Sreesanth well as well.  A word
too for Sreesanth who played with great care having now been part of 3
fairly key partnerships -- the most important, staying with Dhoni to
save the Lords' match, then sticking around for Kumble's maiden
hundred, and now adding 69 very valuable runs with Harbhajan.  Playing
with great circumspection and maturity one would never expect from
him, he kept out 47 balls while scoring only 10 runs.  Going off may
have been a mistake, because Harbhajan was probably only a couple of
overs away from his second ton in as many Tests.  Amazingly Bhajji has
scored 269 runs with just one 10th wicket dismissal at the end of T1I1
looking to force the rate.  Throw in his decimation of the NZ tail
(this partnership shows how important that is) he is by far the man of
the series so far.

NZ must be depressed.  They did everything right; kept at the task,
bowled their lines, backed up by great ground fielding, and were right
back in the game until the last hour.  Had India folded for a 25-odd
run lead, it would have fairly evenly poised, even a slight advantage
to New Zealand as India will bat last.

Basically, NZ need to finish India off quickly and score at least 300
to have any chance of pressuring India.  Seemed poised for a cracking
finish as all 3 results are now possible.

India 50%
NZ: 20%
Draw: 30%