Tendulkar joins Gambhir in rescue mission

Napier, March 29:

A batting master class from Sachin Tendulkar and a century to Gautam Gambhir took India to the verge of making New Zealand bat again on the fourth day of the second Test today.

India closed the penultimate day at 252-2, requiring a further 62 runs before they can start setting New Zealand a target and set about saving the Test.

Gambhir on 102 and Tendulkar not out 58 were firmly entrenched with their unbroken third-wicket stand of 89, and the New Zealand bowlers were helpless to threaten on the benign wicket.

Having been forced to follow on 314 run in arrears, India believed they had at least saved the game after a dogged day in which they only scored 205 runs, but lost just one wicket, Rahul Dravid out for 62.

While his primary responsibility was to save the game for India, Tendulkar was not prepared to divert from his innate instinct to attack as he hooked, cut, and drove off the front and back foot with exquisite timing.

When he entered the arena with India 163-2 and Gambhir on 75, Tendulkar wasted no time taking command. He brought up his 52nd Test half-century off 89 balls in the same Daniel Vettori over in which Gambhir completed his 100 in a more sedate 265 deliveries.

As Tendulkar pushed the pace, Gambhir brought up his fifth Test century playing conservatively with his role being to occupy the middle as long as possible. He had spent more than four hours in a valuable second wicket stand with Dravid, which produced 133 runs at a period when time in the middle to at least achieve a draw was more valuable.

New Zealand knew it would probably take a mistake by the batsmen or umpire to break the partnership and in the end it was umpire Ian Gould who sent a livid Dravid off, ruling a bat-pad catch by Jamie How at short leg off Vettori.

Dravid, who top-scored with 83 in the first innings, shook his head and hit the ground with his bat as he left, while television replays showed the ball made no contact with the bat.

India were forced to follow on after their first innings disintegrated to be all out for 305 on the most accommodating wicket imaginable and where New Zealand compiled 619-9 batting first. With Tendulkar and Gambhir staying at the crease the prospect of a win for New Zealand was fading into the likelihood of a draw.