The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Wicket worry for Sourav on final day

Ahmedabad, Oct. 11: Sourav Ganguly is keeping his fingers crossed. So is Harbhajan Singh.

An hour after play ended on Day IV at the Motera, the off spinner was glued to the monitor along with the team’s video analyst. He skipped the customary pool session and concentrated on watching his bowling statistics ahead of the final countdown.

Having set New Zealand a target of 370 in 108 overs at home, the Indians should have been on cloud nine. The visitors have already lost Mark Richardson and have 322 to score tomorrow.

But what is keeping the Indians guessing, despite the bold and challenging declaration, is the deceptive behaviour of the pitch. The slowness is a matter of concern and there was no indication of significant turn till the final session today.

“Let’s see how the wicket behaves on the final day,” was all Sourav, on antibiotics following an infection arising out of a boil near his waist, would say.

The only silver lining is the footmarks left by the pacers on both sides of the wicket. “There’s been some awkward bounce at the pavilion end but that is also not prevalent at all times,” the skipper added. Harbhajan also was non-committal.

Sourav’s men have been positive in their approach but are staying cautious. The wicket has not been to their liking and they are hoping their worst fears don’t come true. For, even a draw here would be akin to a moral victory for the visitors following the drubbing they gave India in New Zealand earlier this year.

They believe that if their batsmen curb their strokemaking instincts early in the innings and concentrate on spending time at the crease, their task can become easier.

“We’ll take it as it comes,” will be New Zealand’s approach. “We’ll take it by the ball. We’ll reassess the situation at lunch, and if we’ve had a flyer in the first session, maybe we’ll have a shot at the target. But it’s a tough ask,” was how Paul Wiseman described their gameplan. But he termed the mood in the camp as “actually pretty good and relaxed”.

The Indians will only hope they manage a 1-0 lead going into the second Test at Mohali, where the wicket is expected to be hard and bouncy.

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