Match meanders into tame stalemate

McCullum slams double ton as Indian bowlers toil

Match meanders into tame stalemate

Characteristic New Zealand resolve, best exemplified by a maiden double ton by Brendon McCullum, and a true pitch offered twin challenges that the home bowlers were unable to overcome. Throw in the continued absence of Zaheer Khan, who only bowled 18 deliveries on the final morning, and there was absolutely no chance of the Indians at any stage looking like forcing the issue.

Long before Daniel Vettori made a token declaration at tea, by which time the Kiwis had amassed 448 for eight, the outcome of the match had effectively been sealed. India had been set an unrealistic 327 in 30 overs, and when play was called off at the start of the mandatory overs, Virender Sehwag had helped himself to a half-century out of 68 without loss.

No praise can be too high for the manner in which McCullum (225, 544m, 308b, 22x4, 4x6) constructed his masterpiece, the flatness of a track that just didn’t deteriorate and the lack of bite in the Indian bowling notwithstanding. The converted opener had given full vent to his attacking instincts on Moday, but on Tuesday, he played well within himself for the first hour and a half, only shedding the shackles with total safety assured.
For more than nine hours, he drove the Indian bowling ragged. There were patented crunching slashes over point when S Sreesanth, in particular, bowled short and wide – and that wasn’t infrequently – while he used the sweep, both conventional and reverse, to deadly effect, driving a stake with every passing moment.

McCullum will be the first to admit that New Zealand benefited hugely from Zaheer’s unavailability after the first 45 minutes. In his brief stint, Zaheer had Kane Williamson in all sorts of trouble with the second new ball, repeatedly getting past his outside edge without reward. Once he left the park, never to return again, the fight seemed to drain out of the Indians, who went through the motions for most of the rest of the day despite passionate support from 18,000 well-behaved fans.

New Zealand had begun day five on 237 for four, ahead by only 115; any chance of a result depended on India’s ability to strike early, but Sreesanth set the tone with a poor first over when he bowled all over the place and allowed Williamson to pick him off for three boundaries in four deliveries.

Zaheer’s exit a little later meant India’s resources were severely depleted, and the ones at Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s disposal didn’t quite have the wherewithal to stop the Kiwi juggernaut from rolling on. Spinners Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha hardly troubled the batsmen even on the fifth day. They will point to the fact that despite appreciable bounce, there was no turn for them; the counter would be that forget wicket-taking deliveries, they again didn’t string enough dot balls together to impose any pressure worth the name.

McCullum was content early on to sit back and watch the young Williamson go to work. Particularly strong off the back foot and enjoying playing the punch to even not so short deliveries, the 20-year-old scored briskly to dissipate any potential pressure. As if to show that he was equally adept off the front foot, he chipped down the track and hit Ojha over his head more than once, appearing on course for a second successive hundred as the Kiwis retired to lunch at 339 for four.

Simon Taufel’s second big blunder in two days finally brought India some joy soon after lunch, Harbhajan’s only wicket in his 35th over fortuitously earned with a delivery that would have missed leg-stump on height and direction. Williamson trooped off after a crucial hand in a stand of 124 (158m, 238b), re-stoking McCullum’s attacking instincts.
Suddenly, the reverse sweep came out of cold storage, as did twinkle toes that helped him get to the pitch and hit over the top fearlessly. An audacious scoop made McCullum the first Kiwi opener since Bryan Young in 1997 to score a Test double ton, which was celebrated with the gusto it so deserved.

On to Nagpur then, all square. Who would have thought that, two weeks back?!

Score Board

NEW ZEALAND (I Innings): 350 all out in 117.3 overs
INDIA (I Innings): 472 all out in 143.4 overs
NEW ZEALAND (II Innings, O/n: 237/4):
McIntosh c (sub) Pujara b Ojha    49
(167m, 126b, 6x4, 1x6)
McCullum c Raina b Sreesanth    225
(544m, 308b, 22x4, 4x6)
Guptill c Dhoni b Ojha    18
(67m, 67b, 1x4)
Taylor b Sreesanth    7
(28m, 19b)
Ryder c Dhoni b Raina    20
(41m, 31b, 3x4)
Williamson lbw Harbhajan    69
(158m, 146b, 9x4)
Vettori c Dravid b Raina    23
(44m, 52b, 3x4, 1x6)
Hopkins (not out)    11
(65m, 43b, 1x4)
Southee b Sreesanth    11
(17m, 13b, 2x4)
Arnel (not out)    1
(13m, 10b)
Extras (B-4, LB-3, W-2, NB-5)    14
Total (8 wkts decl, 135 overs)    448
Fall of wickets: 1-125 (McIntosh), 2-174 (Guptill), 3-187 (Taylor), 4-221 (Ryder), 5-345 (Williamson), 6-396 (Vettori), 7-431 (McCullum), 8-447 (Southee).
Bowling: Zaheer 7.3-1-21-0, Sreesanth 27-5-121-3 (w-2, nb-4), Ojha 47.3-14-137-2, Harbhajan 38-3-117-1 (nb-1), Tendulkar 2-0-7-0, Raina 13-2-38-2.
INDIA (II Innings):
Gambhir (not out)    14
(57m, 48b)
Sehwag (not out)    54
(57m, 54b, 6x4, 1x6)
Total (for no loss, 17 overs)    68
Bowling: Southee 4-0-11-0, Arnel 5-1-11-0, Guptill 5-0-33-0, Taylor 3-0-13-0.

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