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India have begun the new cricket season in style, routing the vistiting Kiwis 2-0 in the Test series, thus ending their own dismal run in the ultimate format of the sport. Set a target of 261 to win the second test today, India did the job with 5 wickets to spare, recovering from a minor mid-innings hiccup when they suddenly found themselves in a spot of bother at 166-5. Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir gave the hosts a perfect start, adding 77 for the opening wicket, while Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni shared in an unbroken 96 run stand at the end to take their team past the finish line. In between the two partnerships was a crucial innings of 48 from Cheteshwar Pujara, which saw the team through the tough middle overs. Kohli, who followed up his century in the first innings with an excellent unbeaten 51 today walked away with the Man of the Match honours, while R Ashwin was awarded the Man of the Series.
Earlier in the day, New Zealand were bowled out for 248 in their second innings, thereby setting India a challenging target of 261 to win the second and final test of this short but entertaining series. Resuming from their overnight score of 232-9, the last wicket pair of Jeetan Patel and Trent Boult did well to add another 16 runs to the target with the former being the last man to be dismissed, caught behind off Zaheer Khan for 22.
India began their run chase in typical fashion with Virender Sehwag blazing away to glory to put his side in the ascendancy. Sehwag smashed 38 runs from 33 balls, courtesy 7 boundaries and a six, before being bowled by a well flighted Patel delivery which he tried to hit into oblivion.
At the other end, Gautam Gambhir was also dealing in boundaries, hitting 7 of them as well before Trent Boult got him to nick one through to Ross Taylor, a poor shot from the opener, who opened the face of the bat once again, like he has done so often in the recent past due to the excess of limited overs cricket he has played.
Sachin Tendulkar survived an exceptionally close leg before appeal off Boult on the stroke of lunch and was perhaps a little lucky to still be at the crease, though replays suggested maybe the Umpire had just got the decision right. India went into the break at 88-2, but New Zealand were still very much in this contest.
Overcast skies greeted the Indian batsmen as they emerged from the lunch break, and Pujara and Tendulkar played some steady cricket to begin with to ensure that New Zealand did not get an opportunity to run through the middle order.
Pujara broke the shackles in the 25th over, helping himself to 12 runs off Trent Boult. The new Indian no.3 followed it up with another 9 run over off Bracewell to signal a momentum shift out in the middle as India were once again in the ascendancy. Tendulkar soon joined in the fun, hitting 3 boundaries in 4 balls he faced to storm into the 20s. And as if to signal their intent, Pujara hit the final ball of play possible before the rain break for another boundary as India went into the unscheduled interval at 147-2, firmly in control of this match, needing just another 114 to win.
With Tea having been taken early, there was still every chance that the game could be wrapped up today when the rain finally gave way. It was New Zealand though who stormed out of the blocks after the interval, picking up the massive wicket of Sachin Tendulkar for 27, bowled for the third time in the series, once again attempting to play the ball through the legside, and punished for playing across the line.
New Zealand put the squeeze on the Indian batsmen and dried up the runs as Boult and Patel bowled with tremendous precision. Patel, who was unfortunate to have not dismissed Pujara before the break when Brendon McCullum missed a routine stumping, did get his man caught at bat-pad by the Flying Daniel Dlynn for 48.
Virat Kohli finally cut loose and spanked Boult for 2 boundaries to get off the mark. An inspired Suresh Raina decided to take a similar approach against Patel, but just like Sehwag, was cleaned up instead as he attempted to give the bowler the charge. It was a very poor shot by Raina in the circumstances, and not one you would expect to see in a test match scenario from your last specialist batsman.
With the scorecard reading 166-5 and 95 runs still required to win, Skipper MS Dhoni came out to join India's form man this year, Virat Kohli, knowing that the duo needed to spend a couple of hours at the crease together to see the hosts home.
Dhoni opted to go the aggressive route, but did well with his shot selection. The duo took India past 200 and within sniffing of the targer.
There are few better finishers in world cricket than MS Dhoni, and the Indian captain led from the front guiding India towards a memorable win. Virat Kohli too played his role to perfection, stroking an elegant half-century, cultured with plenty of drives through the covers to ensure that there were no late hiccups for the hosts.
India wrapped up the match in style with Dhoni depositing a Jeetan Patel delivery into the stands to clinch the series 2-0. The hosts will take a lot of positives away from this series before the home series against England later this year, but before that will turn their attention towards the 20 over format as they play a short T20 series with the Kiwis before heading to Sri Lanka for the ICC World T20 Championship.
India: V Sehwag, G Gambhir, C Pujara, S Tendulkar, V Kohli, S Raina, MS Dhoni, R Ashwin, Z Khan, P Ojha, U Yadav
New Zealand: M Guptil, B McCullum, K Williamson, R Taylor, D Flynn, J Franklin, T Boult, K Van Wyk, D Bracewell, J Patel, T Southee
New Zealand: 365 all out (81.3 overs, 4.02rpo)
K van Wyk 71 (100) P Ojha 5-99
R Taylor 113 (127) Z Khan 2-83
India 1st innings 353 (96.5 Overs, 3.64rpo)
V Kohli 103 (194) T Southee 7/64
MS Dhoni 62 (94) D Bracewell 2/91
New Zealand 2nd innings 248 all out (73.2 Overs, 3.38rpo)
J Franklin 40 (91) R Ashwin 5/69
R Taylor 35 (66) P Ojha 2/48
India 1st innings 262-5 (63.2 Overs, 4.13rpo)
V Kohli 51* (82) T Boult 1/64
C Pujara 48 (104) J Patel 3/68
File Photograph Copyright: BCB
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