Harbhajan spins India to historic victory
Hamilton, March 21:
India broke a 33-year drought when a six-wicket haul by Harbhajan Singh spun them to a 10-wicket victory over New Zealand in the first Test here today.
Harbhajan’s 6-63 wizardry, following an iconic 160 by Sachin Tendulkar, formed the cornerstone of India’s first Test success in New Zealand since 1976. They wrapped the game up with more than a day to spare after New Zealand were all out in their second innings for 279, and India knocked off the required 39 runs in 5.2 overs.
Brendon McCullum kept the Test alive longer than expected with a fighting 84 at the New Zealand tail, but it had been a lopsided match from the first day when the hosts’ top order crashed to six wickets for just 60 runs. That highlighted the huge gulf in Test experience between the sides where India’s top six batsmen boast a combined 502 Tests between them, compared to 54 for New Zealand.
The hosts went into the fourth day at 75-3, fighting for survival after India had posted 520 in their first innings for a 241 run lead. On a pitch which offered minimal turn, Harbhajan had India on the verge of victory midway through the middle session when New Zealand were reeling at 161-7.
However, McCullum had other ideas, delaying the inevitable with a 38-run partnership with Vettori for the eighth wicket and 76 with Iain O’Brien for the ninth. In doing so he ensured India would have to bat again and spared New Zealand the embarrassment of an innings defeat.
After New Zealand’s recognised batsmen had failed in the first innings, they needed to produce substantial performances in their second turn at bat. But only Daniel Flynn offered any serious resistance, atoning in some way for his earlier dropping of Tendulkar when the Indian master batsman was 13 runs into what became 160.
Brought to the crease after Tim McIntosh fell on the third ball of the innings, Flynn stood defiant in the middle for nearly five hours and faced 183 deliveries for his 67. He
survived one chance on 55 runs when dropped by wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh
Dhoni off Harbhajan.
Gambhir, not out 30, and Rahul Dravid with eight then wasted no time wrapping up the match. The second Test starts in Napier on Thursday.