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Gautam Gambhir scored his 22nd half-century AFP

India set up a 450-run target in the third and final Test against New Zealand in third and final Test at Holkar Stadium in Indore. Earlier, after winning the toss, India chose to bat first and registered 557 for 5 (declared), thanks to Virat Kohli’s magnificent 211 and Ajinkya Rahane’s fluent 188. As a matter of fact, the duo scored the highest fourth wicket partnership, churning out 365 runs. In addition, the swaggering pair surpassed Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman’s 353-stand for the same wicket. New Zealand cascaded down to 299 all-out, courtesy Ravichandran Ashwin’s stunning six-wicket haul.



India had a lead of 276 runs at the end of Day Three of the third and final Test against New Zealand, at Holkar Stadium in Indore. A lead of 2-0 gives them a psychological advantage. Do they have anything lose? As a matter of fact, they do. They are now No. 1 team in ICC Test Rankings. The domination Virat Kohli often emphasises on is at stake. Never have they whitewashed New Zealand in a three-Test series. Now that the stage is all set to attain it, they will leave no stone unturned to put up a spectacular performance on the last two days. Live cricket scorecard: India vs New Zealand, 3rd Test

Gautam Gambhir was retired hurt in the last session of Day Three due to shoulder injury. India played only 6 overs, though. Cheteshwar Pujara joined Murali Vijay in the middle, and ended the day’s play at 18 for 0. On Day Four, it was evident that India would go all guns blazing, bat till second session and post a target of around 450. All the same, India did not start the way they had scripted. They lost Vijay for 19. The crowd expected Virat Kohli to take the centre stage, given Gambhir’s injury. Even that did not happen. For the fighter Gambhir is known for, he made full use of the opportunity and came to bat.

New Zealand were up to the challenge. They were playing for pride. They continued punching well above their weight. Pacers Trent Boult and Matt Henry rocked the Indian batsmen with sheer pacer. In addition, the line and length was spot on. They did not leak boundaries. More importantly, the plan was to not let the Indians off the hook. Also read: Ajinkya Rahane and the art of slip catching

Meanwhile, Gambhir wasted no time. He played a staggering cover-drive, announcing his arrival. Pujara, on the other hand, was going at a slow rate, something India did not have on their mind. Not to blame Pujara, but New Zealand’s bowling was top-notch.

Gambhir’s energy seemed to have affected Pujara. He played an aggressive sweep past fine-leg. India slowly changed gears. They pressed the accelerator, to be precise.

Gambhir then eased one past fine-leg boundary. He translated his belligerence into elegance. Such is Gambhir’s class, isn’t it? Also read: Homecoming of Neesham

Santner continued from other end. He missed his length and Gambhir pounced on it. The Delhiite played a late-cut past the wicket-keeper. There was no first-slip positioned, and Gambhir was well aware of that.

Pujara then changed the laws of strike-rate. In fact, he went against his reputation. He shimmied down track and bludgeoned it to long-off boundary. No, wait. This did not come against a spinner. At the receiving end was the lightening Boult.

Amidst all this, Gambhir left everyone startled with a flick to extra cover. It was angled in just outside off. Gambhir, with his new Shivnarine Chanderpaul-like technique, rolled his wrist and picked up another boundary. Also read: Ajinkya Rahane and the art of playing decisive knocks

At one point Gambhir’s strike-rate read over 100.

My colleague, in one of his articles on Gambhir after his fluent 29 in the first innings, wrote, “If a chance comes his way in the second innings, good. If not we do not know what happens to him when England arrives onshore. All we know is: a warrior he is, he will keep on battling, be it First-Class, Tests or IPL. The moments were worth it.”

Warrior, my colleague called him. And warrior, Gambhir was in the second innings.

He added, “Gambhir s return to the Indian side after two years has been dramatic. When the Sandeep Patil-led selection committee sat down for its last assignment, choosing the side for the India-New Zealand Test series, there were speculations that Gambhir would make the cut on basis of his Duleep Trophy form. That did not happen. Gambhir follows an immense fan following and therefore there were disappointments followed by curses but it seemed the approach was clear that India were not looking back.”

Gautam Gambhir scored his 22nd half-century, his first after 2012.

He worked hard on his technique. He did not bog down. He laughed in the face of adversity instead.

All the same, it was imperative that they continue the momentum. And they did what was asked of them. However, in the process, Gambhir gave away his wicket, holing out straight to short extra-cover, just before lunch. A hundred was on the cards, wasn’t it?

Meanwhile, Pujara scored his fourth half-century of the series.

India go into lunch at 123 for 2, with a lead of 350 runs.

Brief scores:

India 557 for 5 decl. (Virat Kohli 211, Ajinkya Rahane 188; Trent Boult 2 for 113) and India 127 for 2 (Cheteshwar Pujara 50*, Gautam Gambhir 50; Jeetan Patel 1 for 28) lead New Zealand 299 (Martin Guptill 72, Tom Latham 53; Ravichandran Ashwin 6 for 81) by 385 runs

(Kaustubh S. Mayekar, a reporter at CricketCountry, played cricket at U-16 level. Like his idol Rahul Dravid, he often shadow-practises cricket shots. His Twitter handle is @kaumedy_)