HYDERABAD: Virender Sehwag narrowly missed out on a century but laid the foundation of a strong Indian reply after the hosts’ bowlers bundled out New Zealand for 350 on day two of the second Test at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium on Saturday.
At stumps, the hosts were comfortably placed at 178 for the loss of two wickets with Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid batting on 11 and seven, respectively.
Sehwag smashed a typically aggressive 96 that came off 120 deliveries and included 15 fours and a six, while Gautam Gambhir, too, brought to an end his poor run of scores with a much-needed fifty.
Both the openers, however, got out in quick succession. Sehwag was bowled while trying to hoick Daniel Vettori over midwicket while Gambhir (54) was caught down the leg side by Gareth Hopkins off a Tim Southee delivery.
The flamboyant Sehwag drove, pulled and employed the cut with real authority during his stay at the wicket, while Gambhir relied on the occasional nudges, flicks and drives to collect his runs during their crucial 160-run partnership that gave India the platform to dominate proceedings on Sunday.
In the last session, the two openers looked at ease as they collected 98 runs before getting out. Sehwag leaned on his backfoot and smashed a Brent Arnel delivery through backward point to begin the proceedings after tea.
In the same over, he flicked one that was going down the leg, through deep square leg region for a boundary. As he was approaching his fifty, Sehwag upped the ante whacking Vettori over midwicket for a boundary and then took a single to get to his half-century.
Such was Sehwag’s dominance during the final session that Vettori, after being at the receiving end of his onslaught, took himself out of the attack.
Replacement Kane Williamson, too, met with a similar fate. The belligerent opener smashed the part-timer for 14 runs, which included two fours and a lofted shot straight down the ground for maximum, moments after completing his half-century.
The story went on similar line for Tim Southee as Sehwag hit the pacer for a flurry of boundaries in the following overs.
Gambhir was not too far behind as the left-hander, searching for ways to come out of the bad patch that has plagued his career of late, rocked back to cut a Vettori delivery for a four through point.
Sehwag didn’t quite start aggressively, and was two off 23 at one point, but once he got his eye in, there was no looking back.
Tim Southee strayed one down the leg and Sehwag whipped it off his pads and then drove the bowler through the cover region for a boundary.
The Delhi dasher, in the next over, steered one down the third-man region for a boundary, and then flicked another Martin delivery through the midwicket region.
Gambhir, meanwhile, after getting a life at the start of the innings, got into the act and collected some useful runs through drives and pulls. There was a chance for New Zealand when Gambhir nicked Tim Southee but the edge flew over Ross Taylor at first slip.
Earlier, Harbhajan Singh, after going wicket-less on the opening day, accounted for four New Zealand batsmen, while Zaheer Khan added two more to his two wickets on the first day, to give the Indian batsmen enough time to notch up a competitive total.
Struggling with the ball in recent times, Harbhajan gave the hosts an important breakthrough when he had Jesse Ryder, who threatened to take the game away from India with a valiant knock of 70, caught at first slip by VVS Laxman.
The off-spinner then accounted for skipper Vettori, Southee and last man Martin, after Zaheer removed Hopkins and Williamson.
On a high after scoring a century in the first Test in Ahmedabad, Ryder continued his good run with the bat as New Zealand, resuming at an overnight 258 for four, went to lunch at 341 for the loss of five more wickets.
The left-hander struck 10 boundaries during his knock that came off 120 deliveries, and got to his fifty with a cut over backward point off S Sreesanth.
Ryder’s knock was important from New Zealand’s point of view, especially after Zaheer threatened to run through the Kiwi line-up with an incisive spell of swing bowling early in the morning, and Harbhajan’s dismissal of Vettori sometime before lunch.
Zaheer gave India the start they needed when the left-arm seamer, bowling from round the stumps, had Hopkins trapped in front in the day’s third over.
The round-the angle line again did the trick for Zaheer as the seamer trapped Williamson before the batsman could get his bat around to give the bowler his fourth wicket.
Harbhajan then got into the act, first removing Vettori, and then accounting for the crucial wicket of Ryder who was looking good for a century.
The burly New Zealander started the visitors’ recovery after Tim McIntosh, in the company of Martin Guptill, laid the foundation with a sedate century on Friday.(PTI)