India v New Zealand, 2nd Test, Mohali, 3rd day October 18, 2003

Sehwag's century lights up Mohali

Close India 203 for 1 (Sehwag 128*, Chopra 60) trail New Zealand 630 for 6 dec (Richardson 145, Vincent 106, Styris 119, McMillan 100*) by 437 runs

Virender Sehwag made the spectators' day at Mohali with his exciting strokeplay
(c) AFP

After two days of being run ragged on the field India finally had a chance to give as good as they got. And who better than Virender Sehwag to lead such a charge? He gleefully accepted the duty at the top of the order and lashed a belligerent century. Akash Chopra brought sanity to the proceedings, but could not see out the day. Nevertheless, the 164-run first-wicket partnership ensured that India ended the third day on a healthy 203 for 1. There's still plenty of work ahead, though, with 237 more needed to avoid the follow-on.

New Zealand's decision to bat on till they amassed 630 for 6 declared has ensured that India will still feel the pressure when play starts on Sunday. In a late-innings charge, Craig McMillan cracked an inventive century, while Daniel Vettori made 48 at almost a run-a-ball. Sadly for the pair though, they were overshadowed by the innings that would follow.

Sehwag (128 not out, 12 fours, 2 sixes), scored his century with an artistry that included the boldest of brush strokes. The array of shots he played brought the crowd at Mohali to their feet. In a passage of play when Sehwag and Chopra were batting it looked like no other batsmen would be needed on the day. After an initial spell where he struggled - thanks to a combination of nerves, the pace of Ian Butler and the seam of Daryl Tuffey - Chopra stonewalled with magnificent assurance. For those who believed he had a limited repertoire of strokes he produced two drives out of the top drawer. Tuffey stood, hands akimbo, sweat pouring down furrowed brow, as a pair of elegant drives on either side of the bowler raced to the ropes.

Sure, Chopra took his time to score, but there was no need for haste. Sehwag pounced on every opportunity to score, and created more of his own, at the other end. Stephen Fleming's specially designed field of three slips and two gullies, backed up by a third man, did not do the job. Sehwag curbed his natural tendency to slash outside the off and left far more balls alone than he normally would. Fortuitously, this gave him a chance to get his eye in, and then he was unstoppable.

Paul Wiseman came in for especially rude treatment, getting hit for a six and a four in an over almost as soon as he was introduced into the attack. When Wiseman tossed up the ball a bit more, inviting Sehwag to have a go, he gratefully accepted, and unfailingly found the boundary. By the time Wiseman realised the futility of this approach it was too late. Sehwag was flat-batting sweeps and cunningly dabbing reverse sweeps away. Small wonder then that Wiseman ended up going for 55 runs off 10 overs.

In stark contrast, there was no taking any liberties with Vettori. He coupled teasing loop with testing bounce to keep Sehwag honest. His 24 overs yielded just 27 runs, and included 14 maidens.

But there was one moment of joy in the field for New Zealand. After reaching 60 (148 balls, 6 fours) Chopra edged a lifter straight to Nathan Astle in the slips (164 for 1). Rahul Dravid (9 not out) joined Sehwag and saw India to safety through the twilight.

Craig McMillan makes it four centuries in an innings for New Zealand
(c) AFP

When the day began, with New Zealand on 536 for 5, India's concerns were not so much safety, but damage control. McMillan, with 58 to his name, made the best use of a good night's rest and picked off a century. There was little pressure on him, the bowling was flat and time was at hand. But, McMillan is not the sort of batsman who hangs around waiting for things to happen. He took on the spinners, used his feet well and swept judiciously. After Robbie Hart (11) was bowled trying to sweep a straight one from Anil Kumble, McMillan found an able ally in Vettori. In no time, taking a few chances while he was at it, Vettori racked up 48 (50 balls, 5 fours). He had to be reconcile himself to that score, narrowly missing out on a half-century as the innings was declared as soon as McMillan (100 not out, 130 balls, 7 fours, 1 six) reached three figures.

Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo in India.