Shikhar Dhawan showed great patience to keep his wicket intact and adopt a wait and watch approach © Getty Images
Shikhar Dhawan showed great patience to keep his wicket intact and continued to down down his aggression throughout the session © Getty Images

 

By Abhijit Banare

 

Feb 9, 2014

 

A resilient show from India saw them go into lunch at 180 for two, on Day Four of the first Test against New Zealand at Auckland. Virat Kohli completed his half-century and Shikhar Dhawan is batting on 81. The duo have added an 84 runs. Resuming the day on 87 for one, India scored 93 runs in the first session and are still 227 behind in what could be a historic chase. They however lost the wicket of Cheteshwar Pujara for 23.

 

It often takes a special ball to break the stubborn resistance of  Pujara. Even though it was Dhawan who had 49 runs behind him overnight, but India’s chase rested on Pujara whose ability to grind down the swing of Tim Southee and co. But it was a classic battle as the bowlers delivered with intent giving no freebies. Southee in particular looked impressive and and finally delivered a perfect out-swinger to see the back of India’s No 3. The seam pointed towards first slip, pitching it at a good length outside off and got just enough bounce to open up Pujara. Southee’s momentum forced skipper Brendon McCullum to persist with him for much longer.

 

Dhawan on the other end, applied himself and was much more watchful. He did try to end the jittery feeling early on by going for a tight single and completing his fifty. But ever since then, he didn’t fiddle with anything moving away from him. Meanwhile, India’s another big hope in chasing this record score, Kohli, settled in quickly. Southee did mix his length and bowled short deliveries to give Kohli a thing or two to be tentative about but he was unperturbed. He survived a close leg-before appeal from Southee. For close to four overs since Pujara’s dismissal, the runs went missing except for a four byes.

 

Soon, the booming off-drives were visible as Kohli leaned into his shots with ease and looked comfortable on the crease. In order to keep him thirsty for runs, McCullum even placed two short cover fielders, to cut down the runs and Kohli almost fell into the trap, luckily managing to get one right in between them. But it was only a while McCullum could keep up the pressure through his three frontline pacers. More significantly, India had brought down the target well below 300

 

In the last 30 minutes before lunch, he brought on Corey Anderson and Ish Sodhi. And suddenly, the atmosphere seemed to have eased up. Kohli read Sodhi well and capitalised on the opportunities. A few loose deliveries saw Kohli smash him for three boundaries in an over. Those were not just adding to Kohli’s own total but reducing the pressure of the big 400+ total as well. And on expected lines, McCullum was forced to switch to a much more defensive field.

 

Kohli had galloped to a half-century but not to forget the resilience of Dhawan. With less pressure in the last few overs before break, even Dhawan accumulated runs in boundaries. India have not only scored runs before lunch, but also forced the Kiwis to go defensive and think twice before setting an attacking field. It’s going to be a crucial second session. A breakthrough will put New Zealand right back in the game, whereas India will hope for this partnership top flourish.

 

Brief scores:

 

New Zealand 503 (Kane Williamson 113, Brendon McCullum 224, Corey Anderson 77; Ishant Sharma 6 for 134, Zaheer Khan 2 for 132) & 105 (Ross Taylor 41; Mohammed Shami 3 for 37, Ishant Sharma 3 for 28) lead India 202 (Murali Vijay 26, Rohit Sharma 72; Trent Boult 3 for 38, Tim Southee 3 for 38, Neil Wagner 4 for 64) & 180 for 2 (Shikhar Dhawan 81*, Virat Kohli 55*; Tim Southee 2 for 29) by 226 runs.

 

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(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)