Big runs from top-order made all the difference, says Vettori

NZ have done well to keep the series at level-pegging after two Tests

New Zealand have proved their mettle during their last three tours of India with spirited performances against a tough rival. AP

Since 1995 when they toured under debutant skipper Lee Germon, the Kiwis have acquitted themselves remarkably well in India in Test cricket, losing just two of ten Tests in that period. They haven’t won any match, but the profusion of draws would point to a moral victory for the visitors, if there is any such thing in sport.

Not even the top sides in the world can boast such an awesome record of denying India victory in their backyard. Teams such as Australia, England and South Africa have managed victories, but they have been defeated too fairly comprehensively. New Zea-land, by contrast, have managed to keep defeat at bay with quite stunning regularity.

The talk before this series began was whether New Zealand had the wherewithal to bowl India out twice in a Test. After two matches, the scales have been reversed; especially without Zaheer Khan, the question on everyone’s lips is whether India have what it takes to take 20 wickets and win in Nagpur.

In three completed innings, New Zealand have batted out 165.4, 117.3 and 135 overs, on the last occasion declaring their innings closed at eight wickets down. That means they have kept India on the park for at least four session every innings and, in the first innings in Ahmedabad, for nearly six sessions! That’s a remarkable achievement, especially given that only one member of the side – skipper Daniel Vettori – had prior experience of Test cricket in India when the Kiwis landed here some 20 days back.

It has helped that, on earlier tours too, they have played on surfaces that have been right up the batsmen’s sleeves. In this series alone, they have produced four centuries and five half-centuries in three completed innings, a wonderful testament to their resolve, temperament and the propensity to punch above their weight in India.

“We always come here under a bit of pressure. There's always an expectation for batsmen to step up,” Vettori pointed out. “The last three tours that I've been on here, we've got big runs out of our top-order, and that makes such a difference when you're playing in the sub-continent. “It allows your bowlers to get a bit of a rest and come back fresh, and we've managed to do that again in this series.

“The likes of Williamson and Ryder in the first Test and McIntosh and McCullum in this one have really allowed us to be at our best. Possibly in  the past, we haven't been able to put those big-first innings totals together and that's put us under pressure throughout the Test series.”

Not this time, though!

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