For a fielding side, there’s nothing quite as demoralising as a tailender carting your weary bowling attack around the ground after more than enough toiling in the field as the opposition’s top order flattened whatever hopes you had of taking something from the innings.
Well actually, there is, as New Zealand discovered.
Daniel Vettori must be getting tired of Harbhajan in this series. On two occasions now, he has managed to almost single handedly undo all the work put in by the Kiwi bowlers and shift momentum India’s way. In Motera, India were left reeling after Chris Martin’s brilliant spell had them on the ropes at 65/6, only for the spinner to put on a stand of 163 with V.V.S. Laxman, leading to his maiden ton (having scored 69 in the first innings) and India’s safety.
In Hyderabad, New Zealand’s fielding unit had put in a dogged performance to restrict India’s top order batsmen. When Pragyan Ojha was dismissed, India were 367/9, leading by 17 runs. By the time the final wicket fell, Harbhajan was unbeaten on 111, and India had 472 on the scoreboard, a lead of 122. Once again, his batting had taken the momentum from New Zealand’s bowlers like he’d pulled the rug from underneath them.
Yes, there have been occasions when tailenders have scored centuries, but scoring two in back to back matches? It boggles the mind. Harbhajan Singh’s gone from being a jobbing offbreak bowler to one of the most in-form batsmen in Test cricket. To think that the build up to the Hyderabad Test had been all about Tendulkar’s 50th century, that didn’t even happen!