India pile on pressure
Ahmedabad -Tailender Harbhajan Singh struck a career-best 69 before India picked up two early wickets to put New Zealand under pressure on the second day of the first Test on Friday.
Harbhajan slammed three sixes and five fours in his 97-ball knock to steer India's first innings to 487 after the hosts had been reduced to 412-8 on a deteriorating wicket at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad.
At stumps, New Zealand were 69-2, trailing the Indians by 418 runs with eight wickets in hand. Brendon McCullum (38) and Ross Taylor (18) were the not-out batsmen.
"I am pleased that I could contribute with the bat," said Harbhajan. "Their bowlers bowled their hearts out, especially Daniel (Vettori) and (Jeetan) Patel, as the wicket had nothing much to offer.
"It was difficult to judge the flight and length of Dan's balls. He kept things tight at one end. But we have got enough runs on the board. We just need to ensure that we bowl according to our plans and get the wickets."
Paceman Zaheer Khan gave India an early breakthrough when he had opener Tim McIntosh (0) caught behind in the third over while left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha pegged back the off-stump of BJ Watling to reduce the Kiwis to 27-2.
But McCullum, opening the innings for the first time in Tests, held on steadily, hitting seven fours during his two-hour stay at the wicket.
Earlier, left-arm spinner Vettori finished with the best figures of 4-118, sending back Mahendra Singh Dhoni (10), Khan (one) and Harbhajan after taking the wicket of Virender Sehwag (173) on Thursday.
Dhoni was running a fever and underwent tests for malaria, according to the local media manager, but returned to keep wickets.
New Zealand had fought back in the last 25 minutes before lunch to pick three quick Indian wickets, including that of star batsman Sachin Tendulkar for 40.
Tendulkar offered a simple return catch to Patel, disappointing a sizeable crowd that was expecting to celebrate his 50th Test ton on Diwali, the festival of lights.
Venkatsai Laxman (40) was trapped leg before by Patel (3-135) after he had shared 66 runs for the fourth wicket with Tendulkar.
"I am delighted to take Tendulkar's wicket," said Patel. "It is the biggest scalp of my career. I was probably trying too hard yesterday. I had also been bowling a little fast.
"I shortened my run-up and just told myself to keep believing that I belong to this level of cricket. My idea was to bowl as many dot balls as possible and apply pressure on the batsmen."
The Indians were slow off the blocks after resuming at their overnight score of 329-3, putting on 63 runs in two hours of play in the first session.
Tendulkar, who scored the first of his six double centuries against New Zealand at the same venue in 1999, was uncharacteristically subdued during his nearly three-hour stay at the crease.
He hit five fours in his 133-ball knock.
New Zealand were hit by a groin injury to rookie paceman Hamish Bennett, who did not come out to bowl.