After waiting for 12 long years, New Zealand have scored their first test win against India. On the first day morning, the sky was overcast and any captain, winning the toss on such a day, will not hesitate to send the opposition in. MS Dhoni did precisely that, because overcast weather conditions help seam bowling. Unfortunately, Dhoni does not have the arsenal of quality bowlers. Regardless; Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma and Mohd. Shami looked ominous, as three Kiwi wickets fell for just 30 runs. By this time, 18 overs of the innings were already bowled. But this was the end of all heroics by India’s defective bowling machine. They lost their grip and allowed the hosts to dictate terms.
What followed was the usual story of scant regard that international batsmen have for Indian bowlers. Kane Williamson took over from where he left off in the ODI games and scored a patient century. His creditable 113 came from 172 balls, after three wickets had already been lost. Williamson and skipper Brendon McCullum added 221 for the fourth wicket in nearly 50 overs. Even after Williamson left, McCullum had an able partner in Corey Anderson, who proved that limited overs cricket was not his only forte. Anderson and McCullum played sensible cricket and with such smart recovery, New Zealand finished the first day at 329/4. On second day, Anderson and his skipper took the score to 384 in the 100th over, before Anderson fell as the fifth wicket. It was a very healthy rate of scoring for a test match. Anderson was the fifth man out after making 77 in 109 balls. McCullum continued with good support from Tim Southee and Inderbir Singh Sodhi, who made 28 and 23 respectively. McCullum scored the second double century of his test career, when he was the last man to be dismissed at 224 in the New Zealand first innings. McCullum hit 29 fours and 5 sixes during his epic knock. Incidentally his first double hundred also came against India in the drawn Hyderabad test in 2010, where he had scored 225.
India began their first innings with an eye on New Zealand’s mammoth 503 on the board. They had a disastrous start as Dhawan, Pujara and Kohli departed with a meager 10 runs, scored in 5.4 overs. Murali Vijay was the fourth wicket to fall at 51. Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane tried to steady the innings but both of them fell at the same score of 138. New Zealand seamers didn’t allow India much liberty, once the top order crumbled. Sharma’s 72 was the only saving grace for India. It was a sorry spectacle to see all Indian batsmen getting out at 202, without any resistance. On the first innings, India conceded a 301 run lead to New Zealand.
Strangely Brendon McCullum did not enforce the follow-on and instead opted to bat again immediately afterwards. In the post-match interview, McCullum defended his decision on the ground that instead of giving India a chance to recover, he wanted to build more pressure by scoring briskly and widen the lead to a target, which India would find impossible to reach in the fourth innings.
The ploy almost misfired. Indian bowlers came back spiritedly and quickly reduced New Zealand to 25/5 at one stage. Unfortunately the momentum could not be sustained, as the remaining batsmen took the total to 105. With a victory target of 407 in more than two days, the Indians roared to finish the third day at 87/1. On the fourth day, Pujara Kohli and Dhawan created a scare in the New Zealand camp as the score went up to 222/2 in the 61st over. At this score Kohli got out to an altogether indiscreet shot. India still had a chance with 7 wickets in hand, but after playing great cricket and scoring another test hundred, Dhawan perished for 115. Rahane and Sharma followed in quick succession and at 270/6, the match swung New Zealand’s way. However, the end was not yet so near; as Dhoni and Jadeja carried on to frustrate the New Zealand bowlers. At the score of 324, Jadeja got out as India’s seventh wicket. Now Dhoni had only his bowlers to keep him company. Zaheer Khan played some adventurous strokes, including a lucky off-side six. With less than just 50 runs required for victory, one would have expected the captain to prevent the lower order batsmen from being exposed to the Kiwi bowlers. But no such attempt was made and Indian innings folded to give a deserved victory to New Zealand.
The fact that India allowed the hosts to have an upper hand in the first innings made the task too difficult in the end. Any team, who begins by taking 3 early wickets, is expected to keep the momentum. But again what we are talking about is India’s bowling prowess or the lack of it. Last few months have been sad for India’s cricket and more often than not, it is the bowling, which has let India down.