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Fortunes swing with flurry of wickets
- Second test l Dramatic Day III claims 22 as India battle on Hamilton minefield

Hamilton, Dec. 21 (PTI): Twenty-two wickets tumbled before New Zealand weathered the storm somewhat towards the end of a bizarre day of cricket on the third day of the second and final Test against India Saturday.

After being shot out for 99 in the first innings, the Indians gave back a dose of their own medicine to the home side on a wildly seaming wicket — packing them off for 94 — thanks to a career-best five for 29 by Zaheer Khan.

Struggling again in the second innings, even though the wicket had eased a little by then, the Indians posted 154 with Rahul Dravid contributing 39. Sachin Tendulkar chipped in 32, while Virender Sehwag hit a quick 25 batting at No. 7.

Needing 160 to win, the New Zealand openers hung on grimly for 15 overs to reach 24 without loss. Sanjay Bangar dropped an easy catch offered by Lou Vincent off Tinu Yohannan. New Zealand had won the first Test by ten wickets.

The Indian first innings lasted just seven balls in the morning and Ashish Nehra’s pull off Shane Bond which went for six was the only talking point for the visitors in the match till then.

But the bowlers responded well, proving their worth on a helpful pitch. The New Zealand first innings lasted just 38.2 overs, exactly the same as the Indian first innings, and the visitors were back to the crease midway into the second session.

In between, Zaheer bowled an inspired spell and while doing so, put a big question mark over captain Stephen Fleming’s claim that his batsmen were probably better equipped to handle seaming conditions.

The left-arm seamer, who returned his maiden five-wicket haul in the previous Test, struck early to dismiss Vincent and after a 32-run second-wicket stand, claimed the wickets of Mark Richardson, Fleming, Robbie Hart and Daniel Vettori. Nehra and Harbhajan Singh took two wickets each.

The total of 94 was New Zealand’s lowest against India, six less than the previous low of 100 in Wellington in 1980-81. This was the first time in Test history that two teams folded up for less than 100 in their first innings.

When India came out to bat a second time, Sourav Ganguly took a surprising decision and sent in Parthiv Patel with Bangar, perhaps to hide Sehwag from the new ball. The move didn’t click and both were dismissed with the total reading eight.

Dravid and Tendulkar took the score to 40 for two at tea and a bigger partnership at this stage would have titled the balance in favour of the Indians. But the two could add just 17 more before Tendulkar dragged Darryl Tuffey on to the stumps. He struck five fours in his 48-ball knock.

Sourav failed for the fourth time in as many innings, getting out in typical fashion, caught behind the wickets. This time he edged Jacob Oram to wicketkeeper Hart. V.V.S. Laxman, top-scorer in the first essay with 23, lost his off-stump to Nathan Astle after making four.

Sehwag played his natural game, firebrand and reckless, to score 25 from 18 balls. He struck four boundaries, three against Bond in an over, before another ambitious heave failed to clear Tuffey at mid-wicket.

Dravid was holding fort at the other end accumulating his runs and trying to provide the stability that the Indian innings desperately needed. But with the last of the recognised batsmen gone, the vice-captain tried to step up the scoring.

He chased a wide delivery from Jacob Oram, trying to hit it over the point region, but was caught by substitute Michael Mason. His patient 99-ball knock included six hits to the fence.

There were useful runs from the bowlers as Harbhajan once again made an useful 18 before being the ninth batsman out. Nehra scored ten while Yohannan remained unbeaten on eight.

Realising that the key to the successful chase would be to protect wickets, the New Zealand openers stubbornly held on to their ends. The home team needs 136 more for a 2-0 series victory with two days remaining.

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