Rohit Sharma and Rahane repair India’s innings after a disastrous start
A thick cloud cover, blustery winds sweeping across the ground, a surface with some carry and the pacemen asking tough questions, it was an engrossing day’s Test cricket at the Eden Park on Friday.
Driven by skipper Brendon McCullum’s commanding 224, New Zealand progressed to an imposing 503 on day two of the first Test here.
Then, India, reeling at 51 for four, recovered marginally through an unbeaten 79-run association between Rohit Sharma (67 batting) and Ajinkya Rahane (23 batting).
India was still in considerable trouble at 130 for four when bad light ended play early.
Although beaten a few times early on in the corridor, Rohit gathered himself to play closer to his body, ‘left’ deliveries outside off, and essayed some sweet drives in front of the wicket.
And when the pacemen bounced, he did not shy away from the pull. The right-hander has shown resolve in this innings.
Rahane offered resistance but was fortunate to survive a leg-before shout by Trent Boult.
India was rocked early; Boult took out two in the innings’ first over. Out-of-form opener Shikhar Dhawan was opened up by a back-of-a-length delivery and held smartly at gully.
Cheteshwar Pujara, rather uncharacteristically, chased a delivery well outside off to get a nick.
Left-armer Boult bowled intelligently, swinging the ball both ways at a lively pace and disrupting the batsmen’s footwork with the odd short one.
Boult and right-arm swing bowler Tim Southee complemented each other. The duo made the new ball count.
Southee has a telling out-swinger. He can also unsettle batsmen with sharp bouncers. The paceman prised out Virat Kohli with a vicious delivery that kissed the gloves and bounced off the helmet to be held in the cordon. Kohli stood his ground.
The Indian batsman’s constant show of disappointment after being adjudged out is hardly doing his image any good.
Opener M. Vijay, looking secure, was undone by a mean delivery from left-arm seamer Neil Wagner bowling from round the wicket. The ball came in at an angle and then straightened a tad.
In the day’s first half, McCullum dominated. He makes interesting reading technically. At the point of release, his bat is in the air, ready to strike.
McCullum’s trigger movement takes him forward but he does not commit himself to the front foot. Instead, the Kiwi can shift weight to his back leg in a jiffy if the length demands.
He is a diminutive right-hander, finds balance — that crucial ingredient of batsmanship — with subtle footwork. McCullum’s bat came through straight and some of his drives past bowlers Ishant and Zaheer were outstanding.
And, anything pitched short was cut, pulled and hooked ruthlessly. Picking the length quickly, McCullum was invariably ready with his response.
This was also an innings where his focus and concentration were unflinching. He built partnerships, held the innings together.
It was a triumphant moment for the Kiwi skipper when he swept Jadeja to reach his double hundred. He walked back to a rousing ovation after Jadeja held a superb catch, evading the mid-wicket ropes with delicate footwork.
Ishant scalps six
For India, Ishant put in a strong effort to scalp six. His wrist position was good, so was the use of his non-bowling arm, as he consistently hit the seam to get some movement and bounce in the corridor.
Ishant changed the angle — he switched to round the wicket — to beat the left-handed Anderson on the flick and win a leg-before decision. Replays, however, showed the ball would have gone over the stumps.
Soon Bradley-John Watling was sent back by an Ishant leg-cutter.
But then, with McCullum on top of the bowling and useful hands from Southee and Ish Sodhi, New Zealand crossed the 500-run mark.
In the morning, Anderson’s well-constructed 77 and his 133-run fifth-wicket association with McCullum hurt India.
The Indian pacemen ran into problems with their line against a right-left combination. While his stroke-play is explosive, Anderson also displayed the full face of the bat in defence.