A great start to the second Test and a fantastic fightback by India having struggled through most of the tour. A lot of credit goes to New Zealand for not changing the natural seaming nature of the wicket, and producing one that in all likelihood will get a result. They didn’t play safe, and try to hold on to the lead that they currently have and this can only be good for Test cricket. This also gives India a chance to level the series.
As has been the case historically, the wicket at Basin Reserve, Wellington, was lively and loaded in favour of the bowlers. Dhoni won the toss yet again, and when he chose to field, it was a no-brainer. It is one thing having made the decision, and another to execute the plans you’ve made for the opposition and in this instance, he would be delighted with the efforts of his bowlers on Day One.
It was once again the much criticised Ishant, who came up with the goods for India with his best figures in Test cricket. He was yet again ably supported by Shami who continues to impress with every outing. It could have been even better had India not made the basic errors of bowling no balls and letting the in-form batsman, Kane Williamson off twice. Having New Zealand six down for just 86, India would have fancied bowling them out for under 150. Some errors, and some poor bowling towards the end has given New Zealand a score they would have thought was not possible at lunch having been four down.
The Kiwis were off to a steady start with 23 for no loss when Ishant stepped up for India. First he got rid off Rutherford with a snorter, followed by Fulton and debutant Latham. It was just consistent length and line that the Indians displayed in the second innings in Auckland that they have carried on here.
It was always going to be a difficult morning for the hosts, which only was made worse when their captain, McCullum drove straight to mid off. Anderson, Williamson, and some lower order batting got New Zealand close to 200 that gave them something to bowl at on a wicket that is going to remain a bowler-friendly one.
Sharing the day’s credits with Ishant is Shikhar, who batted beautifully today to put India in a position of strength. What has been impressive about Shikhar is the determination and application he has shown in the two Tests. For someone who is a naturally aggressive player, he has been quick to adapt to the given situations in difficult conditions and change his game accordingly. India would hope he carries on from where he left off because it is going to be challenging for a new batsman to bat on this wicket. It is imperative that India get a decent lead to continue the advantage they have managed to edge out at this stage.
It may be a cliche when I say that every session in a Test counts, and the fact remains that the morning session on Saturday could be one of the most important ones of this Test. India, slightly ahead at this point will have to drive home that further to have a chance to put New Zealand under pressure, which they have seldom experienced during the past few weeks.