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India's tailenders defy Kiwis

NEW Zealand was ruing two hours of blistering shot-making by India's batsmen as the advantage it had built after tea evaporated by the close of play on the first day of the third and final test in Wellington yesterday.

India, which leads the series 1-0, finished on 375 for nine after Harbhajan Singh (60) and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (52) had bludgeoned a 79-run partnership and resurrected their side from 204 for six shortly after tea.

Zaheer Khan, who smashed Iain O'Brien for four successive boundaries, joined in with a quick-fire 33 as India scored 185 runs in the final 35 overs of the day.

"The tail wagged," New Zealand allrounder James Franklin told reporters. "Probably 320, 330 would be a fairer reflection on the day for us but Harbhajan played his luck and got away with it and so did Zaheer."

New Zealand had clawed its way back into the match, which it must win to ensure India does not win its first series in New Zealand since 1968, after Virender Sehwag (48) and Gautam Gambhir (23) had scored 65 runs in the first hour.

"That last hour of the first session I thought we bowled pretty well and the last hour of the second session as well," Franklin added.

The allrounder admitted, however, his side had bowled too short to the Indian tail, with Harbhajan in particular, slashing boundaries over the slips or through extra cover.

"The short ball always tends to work well against tails and we probably didn't bowl enough good stuff of that," Franklin said.

Harbhajan said he had relished the length the New Zealanders bowled as it suited his natural game.

"On this kind of wicket it is easy to score runs when the ball is short and they did bowl too short to me ... that's the way I like to bat," the off-spinner said.

Harbhajan said the wicket was a little two-paced and if his side produced a disciplined line and length today, they should be able to take wickets. "We just need to be patient when we come to bowl tomorrow."


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