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Nervous fourth morning for both teams as victory beckons

Zaheer Khan: five wicket bag brings India back into the Test on remarkable third day

This was a day of Test cricket neither New Zealand nor India will want to remember, but tomorrow, around lunchtime, it is a match one team will struggle to forget.
After 22 wickets fell in the 105 overs bowled, and a part of all four innings featured, New Zealand were left needing 136 runs with 10 wickets in hand to secure a victory while India know there is still a chance for them to draw the National Bank Series if they can create the mayhem they did today when bowling New Zealand out for 94.

New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming said yesterday it would be the team that wanted to win the match most that would take it - and that is the challenge ahead of both teams tomorrow.

The remarkable first innings which saw India out for 99 and New Zealand for five runs less is the lowest innings total from which the team batting first has secured a first innings lead.

Whatever else the record books may say, and the 94 was New Zealand's lowest score in a Test against India, surpassing the 100 scored at Wellington in 1980/81, a match they went on to win, the day itself is unprecedented in New Zealand cricket history.

As disappointing as New Zealand's failure to build a significant first innings advantage, so too, was India's inability to score more than 154 in their second innings.

Traditionalists might wonder whatever happened to good, old-fashioned technique? It was nowhere in evidence on either side, no matter what the reputations of the players concerned.

Conditions were difficult, just as they were for India on the second day, but the New Zealanders knew that.

However, that didn't stop the New Zealanders playing some shots that defied the logic of the situation facing them. India in their second innings capitulated as badly as they have in each of their Test innings in the series.

Was New Zealand's batting in the first innings the result of being 1-0 up in a two-Test series? Or was it a hint that Mark Richardson was more of New Zealand's saviour in the first Test than was earlier appreciated?

The batting is not in good shape, and given a seven-match one-day series is next on the menu, there is plenty of cause for concern.

Lou Vincent sent a regulation catch for first slip Rahul Dravid off Zaheer Khan.

Richardson was leg before wicket to Khan, although it had to be wondered why, if Richardson was out why Fleming who was even more in line when he was struck an over earlier wasn't out?

Craig McMillan spent 28 minutes over an unconvincing four before going in similar fashion to Vincent.

Nathan Astle launched into a cut in the direction of backward point off the second ball he faced but found Harbhajan Singh waiting to accept a not-too-difficult chance.

Fleming was upset by movement around the sightscreen for a long period and then once it was sorted offered a straightforward return catch to Khan.

Jacob Oram had a rush of blood and failed to apply full power to his attempted drive after going down the wicket to Harbhajan, generally fatal and no different in this case.

Styris then fell leg before wicket to Harbhajan, to be followed by Robbie Hart who went leg before wicket to Khan, both of them being reasonable shouts.

Daryl Tuffey played some of the best strokes of the innings but wasn't able to turn quickly enough after being sent back by Daniel Vettori and was run out on the third umpire's call and he was followed by Vettori who edged Khan to V V S Laxman at second slip.

India's second innings was fortified largely by an innings of hope from Sachin Tendulkar worth 32 and another innings in miniature from Dravid who was out for 39. Tendulkar played on a ball from Tuffey while Dravid opened up to a wider ball from Oram and cut it to substitute fieldsman Michael Mason at point.

Virender Sehwag, dropped down the order to allow the opportunity to play more of his shots, confirmed the worth of that theory by lashing 25 runs off 18 balls, being especially severe on fast man Shane Bond. However, Bond had him out in an over in which he had taken 14 runs from Bond, when an off drive was well taken by Tuffey at mid-off diving forward to snare a rocket-like shot.

And at the end Harbhajan contained his natural bent long enough to accumulate 18 runs before edging a ball to Hart.

But it was controlled spells of bowling from Oram and Tuffey, who each took four for 41 that got New Zealand back in the match, and the opportunity to take a 2-0 scoreline from the series, something few anticipated before the series started.

Khan and Harbhajan appeal as the biggest hurdles New Zealand will have to overcome.