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Gambhir cracks another ton

GAUTAM Gambhir made 167 and Sachin Tendulkar fell for nine in what may be his last test innings in New Zealand as India reached 349 for five at stumps on the third day to strengthen its grip on the third test in Wellington.

With Gambhir's guidance and contributions of 60 by Rahul Dravid and 61 from V.V.S. Laxman, India took a 531-run lead over New Zealand with five second-innings wickets intact and two full days remaining.

At stumps, drawn 25 minutes early due to poor light, India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was 16 not out and Yuvraj Singh unbeaten on 15.

Gambhir posted his sixth test century, his second in three innings, and recorded his third-highest test score after his 206 against Australia and 179 against England.

Runs ahead

India dismissed New Zealand on Saturday for 197 in reply to its first innings of 379, and was 51-1, 233 runs ahead, when play began yesterday.

It steadily built on its already considerable advantage thanks largely to Gambhir, who batted 352 minutes and hit 16 boundaries and two sixes.

Gambhir and India kept New Zealand in the field throughout the third day, played in bitterly cold and windy conditions and which left India poised to claim its first test series win in New Zealand in 41 years.

India has a maximum of six sessions to win the match - a time frame which Gambhir feels is more than enough even if bad light and the potential for rain are factored in.

"If we can't get them out in that time we don't deserve to win this test match - we don't need two days to get them out," Gambhir said. "With the type of bowling we have I think we can get them out. Any team will find it difficult to bat five sessions with the attack we have."

India won the first test at Hamilton by 10 wickets, drew the second at Napier and now needs only a draw at the Basin Reserve to clinch a test series victory in New Zealand for the first time since the Indians first toured here in 1968.

New Zealand's bowling attack gained only a small consolation when it claimed the wickets of Gambhir and Laxman in a shortened third session.

"It was quite tough standing out there for 90 overs with wind howling in your face, but I guess we've done pretty well," New Zealand opener Martin Guptill said.

The only disappointment for India yesterday was Tendulkar's minor failure.

Tendulkar first played in New Zealand as a 17-year-old in 1990, making a duck in his first innings at Christchurch. When the 35-year-old star batsman left the field to generous applause yesterday after his brief innings, he had scored 857 runs in 20 innings in New Zealand at an average of 45.

Tendulkar has scored two test centuries in New Zealand, the best of which was his 160 in the first innings of this year's first test at Hamilton.

Gambhir remained the rock of the innings. At the end of his knock yesterday he had posted scores of 72, 30 not out, 16, 137, 23 and 167 in the series for 445 runs at an average of 89.


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