Harbhajan poised for another century as India stretch lead


Hyderabad: Harbhajan Singh set himself up for a second successive century, smashing an unbeaten 85 off 82 balls, as India closed the third day on 436 for nine in their first innings against New Zealand here Sunday.

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Harbhajan, who enthralled the Sunday crowd with five sixes and seven fours, and S. Sreesanth (14 from 47 balls) were at the crease with India taking a crucial lead of 86 runs.

At one stage, India were reduced 367 for nine and led by just 17 and it was here Harbhajan, who was at 32 at that time, was joined by Sreesanth and the two added 69 runs for the last wicket when the stumps were drawn.

Harbhajan, who scored his maiden Test century in the last match at Ahmedabad, once again showed his skills with the bat and frustrated the New Zealand attack with an array of shots.

Earlier, India’s innings revolved around V.V.S Laxman, who playing his first Test at home, made a fluent 74 with 11 boundaries.

Laxman put on 75 runs with Rahul Dravid (45) for the fourth wicket after the India lost Sachin Tendulkar (13) in the morning.

Tendulkar, who is one short of a record 50 Test hundreds, hardly looked convincing in the middle.

The master batsman, in an attempt to break the shackles, came down the track to loft Daniel Vettori (4-123), but found the edge that flew to the first slip and Ross Taylor caught a blinder stretching his right hand.

The New Zealand bowlers kept India on a tight leash in the morning session and made them work for every run.

Laxman after a tentative start opened up with his trademark shots through the covers.

New Zealand seamer Tim Southee (3-95) impressed throughout the innings and got his reward when he trapped Dravid (45) lbw with the second new ball.

Laxman was the joined by Suresh Raina (20), who gave his wicket to Vettori, after adding 52 runs for the fifth wicket.

Laxman was out in the first over after tea, trapped lbw by Chris Martin and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (14) did not last long.

Harbhajan then took centrestage, dashing New Zealand’s hope of wrapping up the Indian innings quickly.

The off-spinner straightway shifted into the attacking gears, timing the ball sweetly and sending it soaring over the boundary.

Southee got the wicket of Zaheer, but Harbhajan stood solid at the other end.

Vettori, who had bowled well throughout the day, found the going tough against Harbhajan, who belted the left-arm spinner for two successive sixes.