They weren’t tested, however, by short-pitched bowling
How much can be read into the rather decent showing by the Indian batsmen at the Cobham Oval here on Monday?
The pitch, which had some carry on day one, flattened out on the second day. The surface for the first Test, beginning on February 6, at the Eden Park could be a lot livelier.
Then, the Indian batsmen, at least in the first two sessions, were hardly tested by short-pitched bowling from the pacemen. The manner in which the Indians cope with lifting deliveries could be a major factor in the upcoming two-Test series.
Nevertheless, the Indians did try to use the opportunity to get into some batting rhythm at this pretty venue.
Most of the batsmen spent some time in the middle as the side, 313 for seven declared, gained the lead. The match concluded in a draw.
Murali Vijay (19) did not last long in the morning. The opener was cleaned up by a delivery that nipped back from paceman Malaesaili Tugaga.Steady attack
The New Zealand XI pace attack was steady, a few deliveries missed the outside edge, but the element of consistent threat was missing.
Were there instructions from the top not to provide practice against short-pitched bowling from the seamers to Indian batsmen ahead of the first Test?
These are games within a bigger game. Remember the duel between India ‘A’ and England in Mumbai, 2012, where the host did not play a single spinner?
Left-handed opener Shikhar Dhawan (26) produced a couple of pleasing strokes through covers before being caught short by a precise throw from Roald Badenhorst from deep covers.
Cheteshwar Pujara (33) defended with a typically broad blade and struck the sphere fluently on both sides of the pitch.
He seemed on course for a bigger contribution when he played a touch across an incoming delivery from paceman Badenhorst to be adjudged leg-before.
Stand-in skipper Rohit Sharma (59 retired out, 101b, 7x4) and Ajinkya Rahane (60 retired out, 97b, 5x4, 1x6) were involved in a 99-run stand for the fourth wicket.
Both Rohit and Rahane timed the ball sweetly and consistently and found the gaps. Seeking some form and confidence ahead of the Test series, Rohit did his cause no harm. Stiffer tests await him, though.
Like Rohit, Rahane too retired to give opportunities to other batsmen. Before that a handful of spectators applauded his crisp shot-making. He is a compact batsman with footwork and a rather comprehensive range of strokes. When Rahane struck Tugaga over his head, it was a telling blow.
Ambati Rayudu (49 not out, 93b, 5x4) was organised in his methods. His straight-drive off Badenhorst was a peach. The talented right-hander was balanced and poised.
And R. Ashwin (46, 51b, 6x4, 2x6) batted like a proper batsman, with fluency and timing. The natural flow in his batsmanship is hard to miss.
For New Zealand XI, off-spinner Jono Boult did get a few deliveries to turn. The Indian batsmen, expectedly, handled him with assurance.
The 28-year-old Jono is the elder brother of New Zealand’s pace spearhead Trent Boult. Like Trent, he turns out for Northern Districts in domestic cricket here.
It was a useful outing for India but the side would have been happier had this contest been held on a juicy wicket with a fair sprinkling of short-pitched bowling from the pacemen.
New Zealand XI — 1st innings: 262 for nine decl.
India — 1st innings: M. Vijay b Tugaga 19, S. Dhawan run out 26, C. Pujara lbw b Badenhorst 33, R. Sharma retired out 59, A. Rahane retired out 60, A. Rayudu (not out) 49, W. Saha b J. Boult 4, R. Ashwin b S. Hicks 46, B. Kumar (not out) 3, Extras (b-8, lb-1, w-2, nb-3) 14, Total (for seven wkts. decl. in 93 overs) 313.
Fall of wickets: 1-41, 2-63, 3-93, 4-192, 5-209, 6-228, 7-294.
New Zealand XI bowling: S. Friday 25-5-86-0, M. Tugaga 16-4-56-1, I. McPeake 12-2-35-0, J. Boult 18-2-74-1, F. Badenhorst 16-4-38-1, A. Devcich 2-0-3-0, G. Worker 2-0-4-0, S. Hicks 2-0-8-1.