Gautam Gambhir struck a gutsy unbeaten century to lead a remarkable Indian fightback as the visitors raised hopes of drawing the second cricket Test against New Zealand by losing just one wicket on the fourth day in Napier on Sunday.
After conceding a huge 314-run lead,the Indians raised their game when it mattered most to reach 252 for two at close on the penultimate day,still trailing the hosts by 62 runs.
The left-handed Gambhir notched up his fifth Test ton and was batting on 102 while Sachin Tendulkar (58 not out) and Rahul Dravid (62) were the other notable contributors as the Indians batted valiantly to save the Test.
With one day left,the Indians have to keep the good work going and prevent New Zealand from levelling the three-match series 1-1.
Resuming on 47 for one,Gambhir first added 133 runs with Dravid before putting on 89 runs for the unseparated third wicket with Tendulkar.
Dravid and Gambhir displayed remarkable application in steering India out of woods with a steadfast partnership that kept the Kiwis at bay for four long hours.
In fact,the awesome threesome of Indian cricket manifested why VVS Laxman had been confident of India producing something special at the media briefing on Saturday evening.
They scarcely gave the Kiwis a chance to reassert themselves in the game,mixing caution with aggression to assimilate runs,though scoring at a snail’s pace of 2.28 an over.
Dravid’s impregnable defence and Tendulkar’s dominance are folklore in Indian cricket but today Gambhir showed why he is regarded highly by his illustrious seniors. He batted on and on,wearing the Kiwi nerves thin and running them ragged.
There was a period when he was stuck on 83 for 32 balls in 57 minutes but he hung on patiently to bring up his fifth century,getting a congratulatory hug from Tendulkar,who seemed more delighted than Gambhir himself.
Gambhir also reached a personal land mark in reaching 2000 runs in his 24th Test.
Tendulkar was his imperious self,driving with elan on the up and off the back foot through covers and clipping off his legs with precision,once even hooking Iain O’Brien over the pickets over fine-leg when the speedster dared to dig the ball short.
Having offered his wicket on a platter (49) in the first innings,the Little Master dropped anchor to prepare for what would probably be his 43 Test hundred,his second successive in the series.
Earlier,a dubious bat-pad decision by umpire Ian Gould set India back 27 minutes before tea when Dravid was adjudged caught at forward short leg by Jamie How off Vettori.
Dravid had leaned forward to defend Vettori. Though the ball had eluded his bat and glove,Gould declared him caught off bat-pad at forward short leg by Jamie How,giving the Kiwis the breakthrough they had been searching for most part of the day.
More than the runs they garnered (133) for the second wicket,Gambhir and Dravid had done a great job for India in the morning by consuming four hours,effectively wearing down the enervated Kiwis.