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Laxman keeps the Kiwis at bay

By Vijay Lokapally

New Zealand 630 for six decl.

India 424 & 136 for four

MOHALI OCT. 20. It was a wonderful sight for the purists. Fielders crowding around the batsman; a crafty spinner and a mean seamer at work; plenty of intrigue as the Indians conspired to get themselves into trouble.

It was not a surprise when New Zealand inflicted a follow-on that put cricket on the field in the right perspective. If the second Test ended in a draw, with six mandatory overs left, the Indians had no reason to feel elated. Their pride stood battered and New Zealand's honour enhanced with a highly creditable performance at the PCA stadium here.

Considering the state of affairs, India should thank the `man of the series' V.V.S. Laxman for his commitment, and also the curator for the amiable surface that he presented it with, for, New Zealand, having dominated the contest, could have snatched a win with a little help from the playing surface. Things could have changed had there been support from another seamer for Daryl Tuffey, who rocked and dented India's batting strength with an ideal line of attack this morning,

The unsung Tuffey, and the under-rated New Zealand, without its best fast bowler, rattled the overconfident Indians with a worthy performance. The Indians fell seven runs short of saving the follow-on even as Laxman completed his fifth century in 46 Tests. Not his best but quite a significant one. He witnessed two run outs — the first a sensational piece by Tuffey — and then was left stranded in the morning, unable to save the follow-on. Laxman, a batsman for all seasons, was back in the afternoon, playing the familiar role of holding the innings together, in the company of the young and fast improving Akash Chopra. They forged a 110-run stand that saved India greater embarrassment against an opposition which played to a plan and deserved all credit for enlivening the final day's proceedings.

The star of the day was Tuffey, the tireless, ambitious, and quality seamer. He bowled a probing line and used his strong shoulders to extract life out of the pitch, something the Indian bowlers failed to.

Tuffey's faith in the age-old adage of good line and length fetched him five wickets this day — two to enable New Zealand enforce a follow-on despite wicketkeeper Robbie Hart grassing two sitters to let off L. Balaji, and then the first three Indian victims, all classical fast bowler's dismissals — the adventurous Virender Sehwag and the dogged Rahul Dravid caught in the slips and Sachin Tendulkar, hold your breath, bowled through the gate.

The mental toughness of the batsmen was on test as Tuffey got the ball to kick a few times and the spinners, Daniel Vettori and Paul Wiseman, saw it crawl on the odd occasion.

It was a fascinating duel as Chopra and Laxman batted to the best of their abilities to stifle the Kiwi threat. Their positive instincts allowed them to prosper on a tense afternoon and the strokes that flowed brought some cheer to the spectators, who at one point booed their heroes for their lacklustre show.

Once again, like his deeds against the Australians two years ago, Laxman emerged the mainstay of Indian batting. Good news for those who recognise quality batting. Chopra, with two fifties in this match, and Laxman are the men to watch.

The teams now fly to Chennai for the tri-series, which starts with the day-night contest on Thursday.

SCOREBOARD

NEW ZEALAND — 1st innings:

630 for six decl.

INDIA — 1st innings:
A. Chopra c Astle b Tuffey60
(196m, 148b, 6x4)
V. Sehwag b Styris130
(316m, 225b, 16x4, 2x6)
R. Dravid c Hart b Butler13
(96m, 59b, 1x4)
S. Tendulkar c Richardson

b Vettori

55
(238m, 175b, 6x4)
V. V. S. Laxman (not out)104
(422m, 262b, 11x4)
Yuvraj Singh c Hart b Tuffey20
(84m, 76b, 2x4, 1x6)
P. Patel c Richardson b Vettori18
(44m, 35b, 3x4)
A. Kumble (run out)5
(20m, 20b, 1x4)
Harbhajan (run out)8
(16m, 10b, 1x4)
L. Balaji c Hart b Tuffey4
(33m, 23b)
Zaheer Khan c Hart b Tuffey0
(1m, 1b)
Extras (b-2, lb-1, nb-2, w-2)7
— —
Total 424
— —
Fall of wickets: 1-164 (Chopra), 2-208 (Dravid), 3-218 (Sehwag), 4-330 (Tendulkar), 5-364 (Yuvraj), 6-388 (Patel), 7-396 (Kumble), 8-408 (Harbhajan), 9-424 (Balaji).

New Zealand bowling: Tuffey 29-5-80-4, Butler 35-7-116-1 (nb-2, w-2), Styris 19-7-40-1, Vettori 56-24-84-2, Wiseman 32-7-95-0, McMillan 1-0-6-0.

INDIA — 2nd innings:
A. Chopra c Richardson

b Wiseman

52
(228m, 160b, 8x4)
V. Sehwag c Fleming b Tuffey1
(14m, 7b)
R. Dravid c Fleming b Tuffey5
(27m, 24b)
S. Tendulkar b Tuffey1
(15m, 10b)
V. V. S. Laxman (not out)67
(204m, 183b, 8x4)
Yuvraj Singh (not out)5
(33m, 30b, 1x4)
Extras (lb-4, w-1)5
— —
Total (for four wkts.)136
— —
Fall of wickets: 1-6 (Sehwag), 2-12 (Dravid), 3-18 (Tendulkar), 4-128 (Chopra).

New Zealand bowling: Tuffey 14-4-30-3, Butler 5-1-12-0 (w-1), Vettori 23-8-40-0, Styris 4-2-4-0, Wiseman 17-6-37-1, McMillan 6-3-9-0.

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