I decided to (finally) pull the proverbial out and post the match summary. One of the benefits of being unemployed is that a test match that runs from 9 am to 5 pm presents no challenges from a watching perspective 🙂
The first session was notable for two things. One, an Indian captain choosing to bowl first overseas and Two, the manner in which his bowlers backed him up. Vettori & Moles had gone on record saying they would bat first and Dhoni surprised everyone (Read horrified for some of us long-suffering India supporters) by going against local wisdom. The ball did nothing the first two overs and then the Zaheer & Ishant started to pitch it up. The rest was a dream come true from an Indian perspective. The combination of some accurate bowling ,an inexperienced batting line up and a moist pitch and humid conditions with just enough movement resulted in NZ collapsing to 60 odd for 6, even against a backdrop of some average ground fielding, missed run out opportunities and dropped catches. This session, undoubtedly belonged to the visitors.
The post lunch session was an interesting one. The Indian bowling was persistent for the first 45 mins or so. But the lunchtime sun had dried the pitch out and there was precious little lateral movement. The experience of Vettori and the sheer talent of Ryder blunted the bowling during this period and then proceeded to take it apart in the second period. In fairness, the Indian bowling was not bad, just unimaginative and not penetrating. The field setting was not quite in sync with the bowling. Also both the batsmen rode their luck with edges, aerial shots falling safe etc etc. The session definitely was the home side’s.
Eventually, in the post tea session,after Vettori posted his 3rd Test century, Dhoni dived superbly to take one such edge to bring Vettori’s captain’s knock to an end. Ryder too, deservedly, got his ton after some excitement at the other end, helping NZ to get to 279. The bit I found inexplicable during the Vettori-Ryder partnership of 186 was the Indian team’s attitude. They seemed to be quite relaxed, laughing & joking and did not seem to feel any undue pressure!! Sehwag & Gambhir negotiated the 7 overs with Gambhir a bit scratchy and Sehwag smacking a few boundaries off the hapless O’Brien. Given that India took 4 wickets and did not lose any in this session, I’d give this session to India
Sehwag & Gambhir started off well with some agressive running but a direct throw by Franklin from the deep caught Sehwag napping and he was run out by a mile. Gambhir and Dravid put together a century stand with Gambhir slowly improving from a scratchy start with several plays & misses to something more like his normal strokeplay. Dravid looked as good as I remember with solid defence punctuated with some ferocious square cuts off anything wide. Both men played Vettori’s first spell competently with 6 overs conceding 24 runs! The NZ bowling maintained a good line for the most part but bowled enough balls short for the batsmen to keep scoring around 3.3 or so an over. There were very few drives down the ground, most boundaries were hit square off the wicket mainly on the off-side. At 79 runs for 1 wicket, I’d give this session to the visitors.
Post lunch, the bowling tightened up with more balls being pitched up. Unlike day 1, the ball continued to move around and Gambhir fell to an ambitious drive outside the off stump to Chris Martin. Tendulkar hung around but struggled to time the ball with one pull off Vettori almost being caught by Flynn. Meanwhile Dravid prospered and started playing relatively agressively before losing his off stump to a peach of an incutter from O’Brien. The session produced 2 key wickets of set batsmen on a slowish wicket but India did get 88 runs – even stevens in my book
Post Tea, Vettori went into containment mode initially with Ryder and Franklin and then coming on himself. This was vintage NZ – Tight bowling and fielding. Neither batsman was timing the ball and the scoring was down to a crawl. With about 10 overs to go for the new ball both sides went into a waiting mode for the new ball. The new ball immediately produced the wicket of Laxman in the first over. Pretty much a replay of the Gambhir dismisall, driving at one well outside the off stump! But it did do the trick for Tendulkar. He timed the new ball sweetly and one particular upper cut over slips for four left one and all gasping. With about 7 overs still to go, the players went off for bad light. 81 runs and 1 wicket probably lands this session in India’s court.
India is trailing by just 1 run, but with Yuvraj just in with a virtually new ball and probably swing friendly conditions, anything is possible. If NZ can make quick inroads tomorrow morning and restrict India to a lead of under 50, the match would be wide open given that India will bat last on a wicket that is providing some assistance to spin. However, if Yuvraj & Dhoni hang in long enough and India gets 150 ahead, it could be tough for the kiwis against Harbhajan.
Cant wait for the morrow
The Black Irishman