Gambhir, Dravid, Tendulkar lead India's fight back in Napier Test

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Napier, Mar.29 (ANI): India's much vaunted batting machinery came to its rescue on Sunday, putting up 252 for the loss of two wickets in the second innings after being asked to follow on by New Zealand on Saturday.

India is now just 62 runs away from overtaking the Kiwi first innings total of 619 for nine declared, and have batters Gautam Gambhir (102 not out), Rahul Dravid (62) and Sachin Tendulkar (58 not out) to thank. The match, which concludes tomorrow, appears to be headed for a draw. India will, in all probability, set New Zealand a stiff target to chase after lunch or tea on the fifth day.

Led by Gautam Gambhir, India put up a dogged battle. Gambhir's contribution to his team's cause was invaluable, as he thwarted everything New Zealand threw at him while on his way to his fifth Test hundred.

Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar both weighed in with crucial innings, and the fact that New Zealand's only wicket today was because of an umpiring error was indicative of India's control.

It was a tough, combative performance from India's batsmen while New Zealand were disciplined, rather than dangerous, and gave away only 205 runs in the day. But they lacked the edge to roll India over a second time on a track that is getting easier to bat on.

Tendulkar, on the other hand, reached his half century off 89 balls.

Gambhir's effort surpassed his previous centuries for durability and given the immense pressure India were under. Ball by ball, minute by minute, over by over, Gambhir gnawed at a controlling New Zealand attack. Unlike Dravid, who has a reservoir of patience, Gambhir had to restrain himself and he did so admirably.

He crossed 2000 Test runs today, the third fastest Indian to do so after Virender Sehwag.Dravid was the other man to thank. Before this tour his critics were questioning his form and two crucial half-centuries should silence everyone. Dravid carried heavy responsibility on his shoulders - not least because of his dismissal yesterday, which was the start of a collapse - but went about his business with great skill and efficiency. With stubborn support from Gambhir, he added 72 in the first session.

New Zealand appeared to employ the come-and-get-me strategy, using spin primarily and not placing much faith in pace. There was no swing for the fast bowlers, so the approach from Vettori and Patel was to keep it tight just outside off stump.

New Zealand will need to regroup and focus on playing intense cricket, much as India did on Sunday. (ANI)

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