HYDERABAD, India // Harbhajan Singh, the tail-end batsman, will walk to the crease this morning needing just 15 runs to record back-to-back Test match centuries.
The off-spinner, who has a modest average of nearly 18, hit 85 not out off just 82 balls yesterday as India recovered from 336 for seven to 436 for nine, ending the day with an 86-run first-innings lead in the second Test against New Zealand.
Harbhajan struck seven fours and five sixes, two of which came off successive deliveries from Daniel Vettori, the New Zealand captain.
He has now scored 269 runs in his two innings at an average of 134.5.
"It has been a fantastic innings by Harbhajan," said VVS Laxman, the right-handed batsman who made 74. "He batted to save the last Test match for us and played an attacking knock today and his partnership with [Shanthakumaran] Sreesanth has actually put us slightly ahead in the match."
Laxman hopes Harbhajan will add to his tally today and provide India with the chance to put pressure on New Zealand in their second innings. "Everyone knows that a lot can happen on the fourth and fifth days of Test matches in India, so any more runs will help us," Laxman said. "We were hoping for a 100-run lead and once we are there, we can look at winning the match."
Laxman glued together the middle-order despite little support from the other batsmen, striking 11 fours in his 160-ball innings. India had lost three wickets in the space of 24 runs starting the second day when openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir fell in quick succession following a 160-run stand. Sachin Tendulkar will have to wait for his 50th Test century after making just 13.