HYDERABAD: India’s off-spinner Harbhajan Singh frustrated New Zealand with the bat once again, smashing 85 runs off 82 balls on the third day of the second Test on Sunday.
The feisty tailender hammered five sixes and seven fours to add 69 runs for the unfinished last wicket with Shanthakumaran Sreesanth (14 not out), taking India to 436/9 at the close at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium.
Harbhajan’s onslaught followed his maiden Test century that helped India salvage a draw in the opener against the Kiwis in Ahmedabad.
New Zealand bowlers, led by Daniel Vettori (4-123), had reduced India to 367/9 but Harbhajan’s defiant knock ensured India finished the day with a handy 86-run lead.
Harbhajan cut, pulled and drove with belligerence to enthrall a 30,000-strong weekend crowd. His efforts helped India pile up 113 runs in the final session at the cost of four wickets.
The Kiwis, who scored a first-innings 350, had started strongly after tea, removing the dangerous Venkatsai Laxman (74) and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni in successive overs.
Laxman was caught plumb in front of the wicket as he tried to whip paceman Chris Martin (1-87) off his pads and Dhoni (14) offered a tame catch at short cover off Vettori.
The wristy right-hander hit 11 boundaries in his 160-ball knock and shared 75 runs for the fourth wicket with Rahul Dravid (45).
Paceman Tim Southee (3-95) trapped Dravid leg before wicket to bring his patient 202-minute innings to an end. Dravid faced 144 balls, four of which were dispatched to the fence.
Laxman, playing the first Test at his home ground in a 14-year career, capped his second successive half-century of the series with a flicked four to the fine-leg boundary off Southee.
He also added 52 runs for the fifth wicket with Suresh Raina, who was caught by Martin Guptill off Vettori.
The tourists claimed the prized wicket of Sachin Tendulkar early into the first session when Vettori lured him into playing an ambitious shot on the on-side.
Tendulkar, who was eyeing his 50th Test ton, failed to connect with the ball properly and edged to Ross Taylor who leapt into the air to take a fine one-handed catch at first slip.
The third and the final Test will be played in Nagpur from Nov 20-24.(AFP)