Spinners have a field day

Spinners have a field day

Ashwin, Ojha put on a sterling show as India reduce NZ to 106/5

Spinners have a field day

MS Dhoni’s impassioned appeal for spinner-friendly pitches at home appears to have been granted.

After overnight centurion Cheteshwar Pujara (159, 306b, 19x4, 1x6) and his companion Dhoni (73, 147b, 6x4, 1x6) guided India to the shores of safety in the first innings, the Indian spinners lit up a largely dreary day, extracting plenty of turn, a fair amount of bounce and a clutch of wickets as New Zealand’s wretched run continued unabated.

On Friday’s second day here at the Rajiv Gandhi International stadium, India, overnight 307/5, posted an impressive 438 before getting bowled out at the stroke of tea after the day’s play had begun 26 minutes behind schedule. Strangely, there was not a drop of rain but the heavy downpour in the neighbouring areas drove the ground staff into extra-alert mode. The covers came on in a jiffy as a thick cover of cloud formed overhead but the rain never came. The play eventually began after close to half an hour’s delay but the way the Kiwi innings is progressing, even a longer break would have made little difference so far as India’s chances are concerned.

When the stumps were drawn for the day, the visitors had limped to 106/5 after R Ashwin (3/30) wreaked havoc on a surface that was a willing ally of intelligent bowling. India now lead by 332 runs while New Zealand still need 133 runs to avoid the follow-on and their chances of doing it are as fat as an hourglass figure.

The Indian batsmen continued the good work in the morning session, denying the visiting attack the early success they desired. Pujara, who brought up his 150, threw away an opportunity to score a double, miscuing a pull off Jeetan Patel but his 127-run association with Dhoni had given enough reasons for comfort in the home camp. Dhoni didn’t last too long either as India lost their next four wickets for 54 runs, helping Patel fetch figures of 4/100.

It was a good effort by the Kiwi bowlers but their batsmen may just have let them down.

As much as the Indian spinners were imaginative, giving flight to the ball and pitching it in the right areas to make the most of favourable conditions, the Kiwi batsmen showed remarkable lack of application against the turning ball – playing on the back foot and trying to sweep out of trouble.

After left-armer Pragyan Ojha (2/35) provided the breakthrough in his opening over by luring an aggressive Brendon McCullum into a false stroke which was snapped up by Virat Kohli at covers, Ashwin got into the act to grab three wickets in his first 25 deliveries. The off-spinner went one better than Ojha, dismissing Martin Guptill off the first ball he bowled. The right-hander’s attempted flick ended up in the safe hands of Kohli, this time at leg slip. Kohli seemed to be omnipresent as he held on to another catch, and easily the most difficult of all, just moments before it died in front of him.

Ashwin was the beneficiary again and Kiwi skipper Ross Taylor the victim who was declared out after consultation with TV umpire VA Kulkarni. Left-hander Daniel Flynn showed some promise but his repeated sweeps spelt his doom, Ashwin catching him in front on one such attempt.

At 55 for four, New Zealand were in deep trouble when Kane Williamson and James Franklin showed some stomach for fight to stem the free fall. The left-right combination denied India further inroads for over 21 overs but the reintroduction of Ojha did the trick for the hosts. After spending some quality time in the middle, Williamson cut one that was too close to his body only for Virender Sehwag to take a sharp catch at first slip.

With half the side back in the hut, New Zealand can only bank on rains that are predicted for the next two days. But we know that weather forecasts in this part of the world are as reliable as the Kiwi batting.

Score Board

INDIA (I Innings; O/n: 307/5):

Gambhir c van Wyk b Boult    22
(47m, 36b, 4x4)
Sehwag c Guptill b Bracewell    47
(74m, 41b, 9x4)
Pujara c Franklin b Patel    159
(458m, 306b, 19x4, 1x6)
Tendulkar b Boult    19
(86m, 62b, 2x4)
Kohli c Guptill b Martin    58
(145m, 107b, 8x4)
Raina c van Wyk b Patel    3
(25m, 13b)
Dhoni c Bracewell b Patel    73
(210m, 147b, 6x4, 1x6)
Ashwin st van Wyk b Patel    37
(78m, 54b, 5x4)
Zaheer c van Wyk b Boult    0
(16m, 8b)
Ojha (not out)    4
(42m, 28b, 1x4)
Yadav (run out)    4
(6m, 5b, 1x4)
Extras (B-6, LB-4, W-2)    12
Total (all out, 144.2 overs)    438
Fall of wickets: 1-49 (Gambhir), 2-77 (Sehwag), 3-125 (Tendulkar), 4-250 (Kohli), 5-260 (Raina), 6-387 (Pujara), 7-411 (Dhoni), 8-414 (Zaheer), 9-430 (Yadav).
Bowling: Martin 27-4-76-1 (w-1), Boult 27-4-93-3, Bracewell 19.1-1-88-1, Franklin 13.2-0-40-0 (w-1), Patel 41-9-100-4, Williamson 7-0-31-0.

NEW ZEALAND (I Innings):
McCullum c Kohli b Ojha    22
(31m, 27b, 3x4)
Guptill c Kohli b Ashwin    2
(42m, 25b)
Williamson c Sehwag b Ojha    32
(114m, 92b, 3x4)
Taylor c Kohli b Ashwin    2
(9m, 14b)
Flynn lbw Ashwin    16
(24m, 15b, 2x4)
Franklin (batting)    31
(78m, 75b, 1x4, 1x6)
Van Wyk (batting)    0
(9m, 6b)
Extras (LB-1)    1
Total (for 5 wkts, 42 overs)    106
Fall of wickets: 1-25 (McCullum), 2-29 (Guptill), 3-35 (Taylor), 4-55 (Flynn), 5-99 (Williamson).
Bowling: Zaheer Khan 5-1-20-0, Umesh Yadav 3-0-4-0, Pragyan Ojha 15-4-35-2, Ashwin 14-3-30-3, Virender Sehwag 2-0-4-0, Suresh Raina 2-0-6-0, Sachin Tendulkar 1-0-6-0.

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