India packs a wallop

Harbhajan Singh... a match-winning spell.-AP

Sachin Tendulkar elevated his game. The second part of his 160 was a treat for the gods — pity only a few thousand saw it. Of his 26 fours, there were several that took the breath away. S. Ram Mahesh reports.

India’s first win in New Zealand in 33 years was wrought from clever, consistent cricket over four days. A touch of genius from Sachin Tendulkar helped as well. It began at the toss, with captain M. S. Dhoni staking his reputation of being a shrewd cricket brain. He saw the Seddon Park strip, judged it would help the batsmen more than it would the bowlers, and decided that India would have to bowl first to exploit whatever was on offer. His seamers — Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, and Munaf — responded to the call, reducing New Zealand to 60 for six before lunch on the first day.

Barring Ishant’s in-swinger that bent back off the surface and flattened Ross Taylor’s off-stump off pad, there wasn’t a genuine wicket-taking delivery. But, it was good, old-fashioned Test match bowling — steady, persistent, and possessed of just enough movement to cause bother. New Zealand recovered, however, thanks to centuries from captain Daniel Vettori, whose record in the last three years suggests he’s the world’s best bowling all-rounder, and Jesse Ryder, who has shown that he can be New Zealand’s next great batsman, if he can keep his head. Vettori and Ryder put on 186 for the seventh wicket — a record for New Zealand against India — as the luck of the first session dissipated for the visiting team. Vettori’s was a typically eccentric enterprise, slap-handed and edgy. Ryder batted with a calm authority, punishing anything loose in inimitable style.

India’s response to New Zealand’s 279 was helped by half-centuries from Gautam Gambhir and Rahul Dravid, who did well to steady matters after the loss of Virender Sehwag to a brilliant piece of fielding from James Franklin.

Tendulkar ensured India would seize a substantial lead. Until New Zealand took the second ball, the great man struggled with his timing. But once the second new ball was commissioned, Tendulkar elevated his game. The second part of his 160 was a treat for the gods — pity only a few thousand saw it. Of his 26 fours, there were several that took the breath away. With Zaheer swinging a merry bat to gather a half-century, India finished with a first-innings lead of 241.

New Zealand’s bowling was simply not consistent enough. Chris Martin and Iain O’Brien produced wicket-taking deliveries of great quality — they sufficed for Gambhir, Dravid, and Tendulkar. But the consistency that holds an attack together enhancing its menace was absent.

New Zealand’s second innings — which again realised 279 — had three bright spots. Martin Guptill made 48, and looked like he belonged. His driving and pulling were excellent — they are complementary strokes for one feeds the other, and in playing them both with such class, Guptill revealed the extent of his talent.

Daniel Flynn made a fighting half-century. He’s an ideal number-three batsman: tight in defence, with the ability to put away bad deliveries. Flynn was unfortunate in the first innings, when a leg-glance went too fine, straight into Dhoni’s mitts in fact, but he made up in the second stint. He was bested by a beautiful bit of bowling from Harbhajan Singh, who finished with six wickets in New Zealand’s second innings.

The off-spinner varied his flight well, and used the top-spinner to great effect. It was the top-spinner that did for Flynn, gaining a catch to short-leg. Brendon McCullum resisted with 84, putting on 76 for the ninth wicket with O’Brien to make India bat again. But it was too little too late.

THE SCORES

First Test, Seddon Park, Hamilton, March 18 to 21. India won by 10 wickets.

New Zealand — 1st innings: T. G. McIntosh c Sehwag b Ishant Sharma 12; M. J. Guptill c Dravid b Zaheer Khan 14; D. R. Flynn c Dhoni b Zaheer Khan 0; L. R. P. L. Taylor b Ishant Sharma 18; J. D. Ryder c Laxman b Ishant Sharma 102; J. E. C. Franklin c Dhoni b Ishant Sharma 0; B. B. McCullum c Laxman b Patel 3; D. L. Vettori c Dhoni b Patel 118; K. D. Mills b Patel 0; I. E. O’Brien st. Dhoni b Harbhajan Singh 8; C. S. Martin (not out) 0; Extras (lb 1, nb 3) 4; Total 279.

Fall of wickets: 1-17, 2-17, 3-40, 4-51, 5-51, 6-60, 7-246, 8-246, 9-275.

India bowling: Zaheer Khan 16-3-70-2; Ishant Sharma 19.2-4-73-4; Munaf Patel 18-4-60-3; Harbhajan Singh 22-7-57-1; Sehwag 3-0-18-0.

India — 1st innings: G. Gambhir c McCullum b Martin 72; V. Sehwag (run out) 24; R. Dravid b O’Brien 66; S. R. Tendulkar c Taylor b O’Brien 160; V. V. S. Laxman c Taylor b Martin 30; Yuvraj Singh b Martin 22; M. S. Dhoni c McCullum b O’Brien 47; Harbhajan Singh c Vettori b Mills 16; Zaheer Khan (not out) 51; Ishant Sharma c McCullum b Vettori 6; Munaf Patel c Martin b Vettori 9; Extras (b 6, lb 3, nb 8) 17; Total 520.

Fall of wickets: 1-37, 2-142, 3-177, 4-238, 5-314, 6-429, 7-443, 8-457, 9-492.

New Zealand bowling: Martin 30-9-98-3; Mills 22-4-98-1; O’Brien 33-7-103-3; Franklin 23-1-98-0; Vettori 35.4-8-90-2; Ryder 9-5-24-0.

New Zealand — 2nd innings: T. G. McIntosh c Tendulkar b Zaheer Khan 0; M. J. Guptill c Sehwag b Harbhajan Singh 48; D. R. Flynn c Gambhir b Harbhajan Singh 67; K. D. Mills lbw b Patel 2; L. R. P. L. Taylor c Sehwag b Patel 4; J. D. Ryder lbw b Harbhajan Singh 21; J. E. C. Franklin c Patel b Harbhajan Singh 14; B. B. McCullum c Laxman b Yuvraj Singh 84; D. L. Vettori c Dhoni b Harbhajan Singh 21; I. E. O’Brien c Laxman b Harbhajan Singh 14; C. S. Martin (not out) 0; Extras (b 1, lb 3) 4; Total 279.

Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-68, 3-75, 4-110, 5-132, 6-154, 7-161, 8-199, 9-275.

India bowling: Zaheer Khan 28-7-79-1; Ishant Sharma 22-7-62-0; Munaf Patel 17-2-60-2; Harbhajan Singh 28-2-63-6; Yuvraj Singh 7.3-2-11-1.

India — 2nd innings: G. Gambhir (not out) 30; R. Dravid (not out) 8; Extras (b 1) 1; Total (for no loss) 39.

New Zealand bowling: Martin 3-0-17-0; Mills 2.2-0-21-0.