Ahmedabad, Nov 8 (PTI) India found an unlikely batting hero in tailender Harbhajan Singh who produced a match-saving maiden Test century to steer his team to safety alongwith VVS Laxman as the first cricket Test against New Zealand ended in a draw here today.
The gutsy Harbhajan (115) notched up his only first class century and combined with veteran Laxman (91) as the duo dented New Zealand's push for victory with a solid 163-run partnership for the seventh wicket.
Resuming their second innings at a precarious 82 for six, Laxman and Harbhajan saved India the blushes by batting cautiously before the innings folded up for 266 shortly after the tea break for an overall lead of 294.
The Kiwis were 22 for one in their second innings before both captains decided to call off play.
Zaheer Khan removed opener Tim McIntosh for a duck but Brendon McCummum (11) and Bradley-John Watling (2) ensured there were no further setbacks for the visitors who will take a great deal of confidence from their performance here.
The two teams will now travel to Hyderabad for the second Test to be held at the Rajiv Gandhi International stadium from November 12 to 16.
It was Harbhajan who stole the spotlight on the final day's play and had it not been for his valiant batting effort, the story could have been quite different for the home team.
Harbhajan, who made his highest score of 69 in the first innings, achieved his dream of scoring a century in Test cricket. His 115 came off 193 balls and contained 13 boundaries and three sixes.
Harbhajan reached his maiden hundred in style with a six off Vettori and held his bat aloft to reciprocate the applause of his teammates in the dressing room.
The stylish Laxman, who has bailed India out of many a crisis, was a picture of poise and concentration as he held the innings together and kept guiding Harbhajan.
Laxman was wrongly given out leg before wicket to rival team captain Daniel Vettori by umpire Steve Davis as TV replays showed the ball had deflected on to the pad off the inside edge of the bat.
Laxman and Harbhajan took India from a difficult 65 for six last evening at the fall of captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni's wicket and were not separated till close to the tea interval when Vettori won the verdict against the former. The duo was together for 10 minutes under four hours and faced 328 balls.