India on brink of historic series triumph

India needed just six wickets to clinch a historic series triumph over New Zealand after tightening the noose on the hapless Kiwis in the third Test.

updated: April 07, 2009 09:37 IST
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India needed just six wickets to clinch a historic series triumph over New Zealand after tightening the noose on the hapless Kiwis in the third and final Test here on Monday.

Set a near impossible target of 617, the hosts were struggling at 167 for four before bad light brought an early end of the fourth day's play.

The Indians first declared their second innings at 434 for 7 in the morning session by adding 85 quick runs to their overnight tally and then had the Kiwis on the mat to put themselves on the threshold of a 2-0 series triumph.

With one more day left, the Kiwis have to bat out three more sessions to save the game on a Basin Reserve pitch which has not shown any signs of drastic deterioration.

The Indians, on the other hand, need to capture the remaining six wickets, after Zaheer Khan (2/50) and Harbhajan Singh (2/36) inflicted early damage.

Ross Taylor on 69 and James Franklin on 26 were at the crease when bad light stopped play with 21 overs remaining to be bowled on day four.

Taylor and Franklin led New Zealand's fightback in the post-tea session to keep India at bay at the wind-swept Basin Reserve on an eventful day when Rahul Dravid created a world record for most catches by a fielder.

Dravid, who gobbled up Tim McIntosh at third slip off Zaheer in the morning session to go ahead of Mark Waugh (181 catches, 128 Tests), later took his catch tally to 183, snaring Jesse Ryder at first slip off Harbhajan.

Chasing 617 for an improbable win, and down in the dumps at 84 for four at one stage, the Kiwis recovered through an 83-run unbroken fifth wicket partnership between Taylor and Franklin before bad light stopped play much before scheduled draw of stumps.

It was Zaheer who had raised hopes of an Indian win with a day to spare when he ejected Tim McIntosh (4) and Daniel Flynn (10) early in the New Zealand second innings.

When Martin Guptill, who showed flashes of brilliance during his 93-ball 49, and Jesse Ryder (0) fell to Harbhajan's guile in the space of three balls, the Kiwis were virtually lost in their own backyard, where they had trounced the visitors on three successive tours.

But Taylor, who played some stunning strokes, and Franklin mixed aggression with caution to stop the marauding Indians in their tracks, batting out 24.2 overs even as Dhoni's legion searched for another wicket to complete a possible series drubbing.

Taylor showed that he could one day become New Zealand's mainstay batsman, remaining not out with a gutsy 69 following his 151 at Napier and 42 in the first innings here. The 25-year-old's fifth half century in 17 Tests was studded with nine boundaries.

He though had a dramatic second life in the innings. Adjudged caught at short leg by Gautam Gambhir off Harbhajan by umpire Simon Taufel, Taylor reluctantly left the square evoking the two umpires refer the catch to the third umpire.

He was justifiably allowed to continue his innings as the replays indicated that the might have been taken on the bounce by Gambhir.

Earlier, India, resuming at their overnight 349 for five had declared at 434 for seven, a wee bit after Mahendra Singh Dhoni had notched his 15th half century in 37 Tests. India gave themselves an hour and five sessions to bowl out the Kiwis and wrap up a historic Test series triumph on New Zealand soil after 41 years.

Earlier, India had begun on a belligerent note as Yuvraj Singh took 18 runs off an Iain O'Brien over. Beginning his onslaught with a back cut, the left-hander majestically pulled the short ball twice, before disdainfully smashing O'Brien over the wickets at mid-wicket.

But Yuvraj did not last long, driving distantly at Chris Martin to offer Ross Taylor his third catch of the innings at first slip.

Martin was to strike three balls later, when Harbhajan Singh top-edged an intended hook to a juggling Tim Southee at deep fine-leg.

Dhoni remained unbeaten on 56, while Zaheer, who smashed Vettori out of the park over long-on, made 18 not out.

Martin, who has garnered 14 wickets in the three-match series, was the best of the Kiwi pace quartet with figures of three for 70 off 22 overs.