It had been 33 years since India won a Test match in New Zealand but the
statistic was rendered obsolete after a six-wicket haul from Harbhajan
Singh inspired a comprehensive 10-wicket victory at Seddon Park. Daniel
Flynn led the defiance with 67 and Brendon McCullum hustled 84 as India
eased off after tea. But though the innings defeat was avoided after a
76-run partnership with Iain O'Brien, India needed just 32 balls to knock
off the 39 runs needed.
McCullum was decidedly fortunate to survive a leg-before shout from Munaf
Patel when he was on three, and Simon Taufel missed a bat-pad
catch when he had 67. But those apart, he played his strokes freely, with
MS Dhoni not employing too many close-in fielders and more than content to
give him singles. With the field spread, he cut the ball with immense
power and played a couple of pulls too as the innings defeat was avoided.
O'Brien defended stoutly and hit a couple of boundaries himself as the
partnership assumed frustrating proportions. Almost inevitably, it was
Harbhajan that provided succour, though there was more than an element of
doubt about the bat-pad decision that ended O'Brien's resistance. He
could have few complaints though after the third umpire had given him the
benefit of a run-out call.
It had taken India almost an hour to break through in the morning but once
they did, wickets kept falling at regular intervals. Harbhajan was at the
forefront, bowling round the wicket and flighting the ball into the few
rough patches. He varied his pace cleverly and the bounce in the pitch
made tackling him a most arduous proposition.
Flynn started the day in positive fashion, cutting and pulling Zaheer Khan
for fours, but Ross Taylor struggled terribly against Ishant Sharma, who
had bowled him in the first innings. It was left to Flynn to keep the
scoreboard ticking and he did that with two guided fours behind point when
Munaf was introduced into the attack.
It took New Zealand 42 overs to bring up 100 and Flynn then cut Ishant
beautifully through cover to bring up his half-century from 118 balls. The
applause had barely died down though when Taylor, who had eked out just
four from 29 balls, slashed a Munaf delivery straight to Virender Sehwag
Jesse Ryder was fortunate that the uppish drive with which he got off the
mark just evaded Harbhajan at cover, but there was nothing lucky about two
ferocious pull strokes that went for four and six off Zaheer. But thoughts
of a sensational counterattack, as in the first innings, vanished soon
before lunch as Harbhajan came round the wicket to trap him plumb in
New Zealand's plight would have been much worse if MS Dhoni had not put
down a catch off Flynn when he had made 55. Harbhajan turned away in
disappointment as the chance went down, but it was only a matter of time
before India made further inroads.
James Franklin, selected on the basis of robust batting form as well as
his bowling, never looked at ease, and a scoop to point was safely taken
by Munaf. When Flynn was caught at short leg off bat and pad, it brought
Daniel Vettori to the crease, but though he played two magnificent
off-drives, there was no repeat of the heroics that had saved face in the
first innings. Harbhajan arrowed one in at the body and Vettori could only
get a thin inside-edge that Dhoni did very well to hold on to after it
brushed the thigh.
That gave Harbhajan his 23rd five-wicket haul and it was something of a
surprise when Dhoni decided to take the new ball 10 minutes before tea.
Though McCullum and O'Brien kept then kept India at bay for an hour, it
wasn't a costly gamble, and Sehwag wasn't even required to open as Gautam
Gambhir and Rahul Dravid finished things off with a flurry off fours. One
more jinx ended by an Indian team that has now won four of its last six