Kohli, Raina save India the blushes - 09-01-2012, 10:42 AM
Suresh Raina's fifty had aggression mixed in with an urgency to find security around his No. 6 spot © Associated Press
Led by a Virat Kohli classic, after staggering somewhat at two points of their innings, India find themselves within 82 runs of the New Zealand first innings total of 365. Plus a healthy chance in this Test match. At stumps on day two, India were 283 for 5 with Kohli seven short of his century and MS Dhoni four short of his fifty.
Kohli formed the core of two middle-order partnerships that ensured that the Indians kept moving ahead. Just after lunch, India had wobbled at 80 for 4, before Kohli became the fulcrum of the Indian resistance even as New Zealand's impressive seam bowlers threatened to get their teeth into the Indian lower order.
A fifth wicket stand of 99 with Suresh Raina took control of the Indian innings after the loss of the top four. A sixth-wicket unbeaten 104-run partnership with Dhoni had made the most of the softer old ball. New Zealand's triumvirate of leading quick bowlers, Tim Southee, Doug Bracewell and Trent Boult had an outstanding day of purpose, energy, swing bowling and wickets, more than ably aided by their fielders. In the final count, though, New Zealand were held off by these two partnerships.
At stumps, the Indian response was centered around Kohli's most intelligently compilied knock. He came in at 67 for 3, at the fall of Virender Sehwag's wicket. In the early part of innings, he gave the bowling due respect and with two aggressive partners at the other end, Kohli played at his own pace. He was neither over-defensive or overdosing on the aggro. His strokemaking was of the highest calibre, his first boundary only off the 21st ball. He stepped out confidently to hoist Jeetan Patel over midwicket for six and hitting Boult, Bracewell and James Franklin down the ground for straight boundaries. A controlled pull off his face to Bracewell was sufficient proof of his calibre.
Raina's 55 was a different kind of fifty. It had aggression mixed in with an urgency to find security around his No. 6 spot. He was the prime mover in the partnership with Kohli, given enough opportunity to go onto his front foot. His three boundaries in the second over he faced from Bracewell, however, included a cracking pull shot. When Patel tossed one up, Raina struck a sweet six over extra cover. He was given a reprieve on 48, stumped off a no ball off Patel. His innings came to an end quickly after tea. Like Hyderabad, he was caught trying to tickle one down the leg side, this time to Southee.
Much like Raina had done on his arrival during a crisis, Dhoni led his innings with big-hitting strokeplay. He took maximum benefit of the fact that his counterpart had offered him Patel's off spin at one end for as many as eight overs. Dhoni charged down the wicket against Patel, taking on the fielder at long-on and belted two sixes over his head. That kicked off his innings and got the partnership with Kohli going at a good clip.
Regardless of what was happening to Patel, Boult, Bracewell and Southee got the ball to move at good pace, even if they were a bit lenient by not putting enough short ball queries to Raina. Like he had done in Hyderabad, Ross Taylor overbowled Patel at a time when his three seamers were - between them - asking constant questions of the batsmen. Rather than use Franklin's very medium pace to wobble the ball around, Taylor chose to fall back on Patel.
Until then, New Zealand had given themselves the best chance in this Test, Southee instantly justifying his selection over Chris Martin, not only because he'd hit a six during his brief time at the crease. Within ten overs of the Indian innings, Southee had the wickets of Gautam Gambhir, shouldering arms and having his bail disturbed, and Cheteshwara Pujara, mistiming a hook leaving the hosts at 2 for 27.
At the other end, after a watchful start, Sehwag lashed at the bowling. At the lunch break he was on 39, with seven boundaries, an surviving an appeal for leg before and two nicks through the slips. His partner Sachin Tendulkar played at a subdued pace, searching for touch and timing.
In his first over after lunch, Bracewell's leg stump line to Sehwag was meant to eliminate the width and room he gobbled up on his way to 43. The third ball was whipped to the square leg boundary. The fourth ball, slightly straighter, was hit uppishly and ended up in the hands of the flying Flynn at short midwicket.
When Tendulkar hit a classic straight drive off Bracewell, it offered the clue that he may finally have settled in. One ball later, came the bowler's denouement: Tendulkar played all over a straight one and was bowled through his defence. It is the second time that Tendulkar was bowled through the gate in this series. Within eleven balls after lunch, India were tottering at 80 for 4 before Raina and Kohli got together.
Play had started half an hour early and New Zealand lost their last four wickets for 20 runs, within 45 minutes. The two overnight batsmen, Kruger van Wyk and Bracewell who added 99 for the seventh wicket, met with contrasting ends. van Wyk fell to a sustained spell of inquiry from Zaheer Khan, trying to guide one through to third man, Gambhir-style, but instead edged it to a diving Raina at second slip. Bracewell was unlucky to be the non-striker who ended up backing Southee too far. Ojha finished with 5 for 99, when he had Southee leg before for a lusty 14.
Overall, it was a tight day's Test cricket; New Zealand have kept throwing the challenges, Southee finishing with 3 for 35 and Bracewell 2 for 66; the control of the game will, however, depend on what India's last batting pair do on Sunday morning.
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