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Wednesday, Oct 01st

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Brendon McCullum’s stupendous triple century at the Basin Reserve, Wellington, on day 5 of the 2nd and final Test match between New Zealand and India helped the hosts pull off what looked like an improbable recovery to save the Test Match. New Zealand, who were miles behind the eight-ball after conceding a massive 246 run first innings lead to India, were pulled out of deep waters by a fighting 352 run world record stand by McCullum and BJ Watling on day 4 of the Test, which helped the hosts put up a mammoth 680/8 in their second innings on a pitch that flattened out completely after day 2. India were then put into bat for 52 overs in their final innings and were in some stress at 10/2 early on but a stylish and brisk 105* from their star batsman Virat Kohli took them to safety at 166/3 at stumps on the final day.

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It was a battle of attrition on day 3 of the second Test between New Zealand and India at Wellington as the Kiwis continued to fight hard to deny the Indians a rare away win while visitors are still very much on course to level the series over the last 2 days of the match. Resuming on 24/1 in their second innings, the Kiwis ended day 3 on 252/5, 6 runs ahead of India’s first innings score of 438.

New Zealand began the day poorly losing their best batsman Kane Williamson caught behind off Zaheer Khan for just 7. Debutant Tom Latham, who was filling in for the unavailable Ross Taylor, then strung together a 25 run stand with opener Hamish Rutherford (35) before Rutherford too nicked one behind off Zaheer Khan with the score on just 52.  India struck again to leave the Kiwis in tatters before lunch as Mohammed Shami picked up Tom Latham (29), once again caught behind by Dhoni. The Kiwis went into Lunch on 87/4 still 159 runs in arrears and with a battle on their hands.

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New Zealand rode on a couple of opportunities gifted to them by the Indian fielders to post a formidable 329/4 at stumps on on day 1 of the first test between New Zealand and India after being put in to bat at Eden Park in Auckland. The Indian skipper MS Dhoni won his 6th toss in a row on the tour and had no hesitation in putting the hosts into bat on what was perceived a greener wicket than normal in Auckland.

India’s bowlers seemed to have seized the initiative in the first session on a moisture laden wicket by removing the first 3 New Zealand wickets for just 30 runs on the board and creating plenty of other wicket taking opportunities. Ishant Sharma picked up two out of the three wickets to fall in Hamish Rutherford (6) and Ross Taylor (3) while pace veteran Zaheer Khan trapped Peter Fulton plumb in front for 13.

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India named a shockingly large touring party for their shortened safari to South Africa, picking a 16 man ODI squad and a 17 man Test squad for a series which includes just 3 ODIs and 2 Test Matches after having been chopped down controversially to accommodate Sachin Tendulkar's retirement.

India's excessive test squad includes as many as 5 pacers, suggesting that India may even head into a match lining up with 4 fast bowlers with Ravichandran Ashwin featuring potentially as an allrounder and MS Dhoni batting at no.6. Given their track record of breaking down overseas, it is perhaps understandable why so many medium pacers have been selected, but surely a large number of players for such a short series are simply going along for the ride. That list includes Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma, both of whom bring some much needed overseas experience to the Indian bowling unit, but surely given their recent form and the fact that Zak doesn't even have a central BCCI contract, are not going to play.

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In addition to picking the squad for the fourth and final test of the series against England, the All-India Senior Selection Committee also named a rather massive 15-man squad for the 2-match T20 series to be played against the same opposition later this month in Pune and Mumbai. The two noteworthy absentees from the squad - Zaheer Khan and Virender Sehwag - were unavailable for selection, giving the selectors an opportunity to draft in a few necomers.

There are no real surprises in the batting unit for the T20 squad, with Gautam Gambhir and Ajinkya Rahane expected to open the batting with a strong middle order in Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh to follow. Manoj Tiwary and allrounder Ravindra Jadeja will probably be warming the benches.

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zaheer_khanAfter losing back-to-back test matches at home for the first time in a decade, the All-India Selection Committee has made a few changes to their squad for the fourth and final test of their series against England. The selectors have opted to axe Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan and Yuvraj Singh from the 15-man squad, but have decided to stick on with skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and a host of other non-performers in the team that lost the Kolkata Test earlier today.

Zaheer Khan may consider himself a tad unfortunate to have been made a scapegoat, with most pundits still believing the ageing left-arm seamer to be India's best medium pacer in this format of the game. The veteran bowler has been replaced in the squad by the uncapped Parvinder Awana, with Umesh Yadav continuing to miss out due to injury. Ishant Sharma, who made his comeback into test cricket earlier this week after an 11 month absence, failed to impress either, and it will be interesting to see if he keeps his place in the playing eleven come Nagpur.

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