Hosts gain upper hand in first Test with New Zealand in the western city of Ahmedabad.
|Daniel Vettori dismissed VVS Laxman, who had batted for most of the two first sessions of the day [AFP]|
Two gritty innings from Harbhajan Singh and VVS Laxman salvaged a draw for India on the last day of the first Test against New Zealand.
Lower-order batsman Singh (115) and the dependable Laxman (91) batted for the major part of the first two sessions in Ahmedabad, which India resumed at 82 for six, a lead of 110.
India were all out for 266 shortly after tea, setting an improbable 295 run target for New Zealand in 24 overs.
New Zealand were 22 for one in their second innings when play ended at the Sardar Patel Stadium.
Singh and Laxman added 163 for the seventh wicket, rescuing India from a precarious 65-6 on the fourth day when Chris Martin had ripped through the top order with a five-wicket haul.
Singh, who bettered his previous career-best score of 69 in the first innings, set the tone with a crisp drive for four through covers off Martin in the third over of the day and got to his 50 with a glance to the leg side off the same bowler.
Declared “man of the match”, Singh overtook Laxman by the end of the first session and stayed ahead during most of the remaining time together as he picked his shots.
He slowed a little in the 90s, when he gave a return catch to Martin, who failed to latch on to it.
The lower-order batsman reached his first 100 in style, jumping out and hoisting left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori for a huge six over the cover boundary.
“I enjoyed batting here, but had never thought I would be declared ‘man of the match’ for my batting in a test match, though that has been a possibility in one-dayers,” Singh said.
“I knew I just needed to stay there (in the middle) and it helped that Laxman was at the other end. He asked me not to worry about the hundred and play my natural game”.
Laxman, whose batting has rescued India on several occasions – including a second-innings knock of 281 against Steve Waugh’s Australia at Eden Gardens nine years ago – brought up his half-century with a four through mid-wicket off spinner Jeetan Patel.
Laxman, who resumed the day on 34, batted close to six hours and hit nine fours during his crucial knock.
He was unlucky to miss out on a 17th Test century when the umpire gave him out lbw to Vettori, the New Zealand captain, as replays showed a clear inside edge on to the pad.
Vettori dismissed Zaheer Khan in similar fashion off the very next delivery and then part-timer Ross Taylor came on to dismiss Singh and Sreesanth.
Vettori had fewer attacking resources after Hamish Bennett and Jesse Ryder were unable to bowl due to injuries, and Martin was far less effective in the first session Monday after his 5-25 performance on Sunday.
“I am happy with our performance here as the guys stepped up when it mattered,” Vettori said.
“Jesse [Ryder] got a century and then Martin took those five wickets that resulted in a turnaround we had not imagined”.
The three Test series continues on November 12 at Hyderabad.