Williamson-McCullum fight back, New Zealand reach 179/3

Williamson-McCullum fight back, New Zealand reach 179/3

Kane Williamson and skipper Brendon McCullum led New Zealand's sensational fightback with individual fifties as the hosts reached 179 for three at tea on the opening day of the first cricket Test against India, here today.

Indian bowlers went wicketless in the post lunch session as Williamson and McCullum raised an unbeaten 149-run stand for the fourth wicket to stabilise the New Zealand's sinking ship after they had been reduced to 30 for three halfway through the morning session at Eden Park.

Williamson was unbeaten on 79 runs (115 balls, seven fours, two sixes) while McCullum scored 71 not out (12 fours), making the visiting bowlers toil hard once the sun came out and the early swing vanished.

This was Williamson's sixth consecutive fifty in all formats of the game, coming on the back of his superb run in the recently-concluded one-day series against the same opponents, in which the Kiwi star shone with five consecutive 50s on the trot.

Ishant Sharma (2-39) was the most successful bowler, with Zaheer Khan (1-67) chipping in as well. Mohammad Shami (0-44) was unlucky not to have taken a wicket in either session, even as Ravindra Jadeja (0-20) did not look like taking one in his short spell. Virat Kohli (0-4) bowled one over as well.

Williamson (22 not out) and McCullum (5 not out) started off after lunch, looking to repair the damage from the morning session and re-build the innings. Their approach was a mix of caution and punishing the bad deliveries of which there were plenty as the conditions eased out.

Wind carried away the cloud cover from the morning and finally the sun came out as prominent swing from the morning session vanished.

Even so, Shami managed to induce an edge from Williamson in the 29th over of the innings, five overs after the re-start, only for Murali Vijay to put it down at first slip.
The batsman was on 32 at that time and did not present another chance throughout the remainder of the session, instead scoring some beautiful shots all over the Eden Park.

The 50-run partnership between the two came in the 30th over and from there in, they pressed on with the scoring.

Williamson hit two sixes, the first in the 33rd over, when New Zealand were placed at 102/3, and the second in the 38th over, reaching his 13th Test fifty.

At the other end, McCullum brought up his 29th Test fifty in 86 balls in the 43rd over, as also their 100-run partnership. In doing so, he carried the team-score past the 150-mark as well.

Earlier, Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni won his sixth straight toss on this tour, and opted to bowl first in optimum conditions. The visitors did not make any changes to their eleven that played against South Africa in Durban.
Similarly, the hosts did not make any either to their eleven that played West Indies in Hamilton.

Peter Fulton (13) and Hamish Rutherford (6) took first strike, even as Shami and Zaheer bowled at lively pace and beat the batsmen on more than a couple of occasions.

In fact, Fulton was very lucky to survive as long as he did, continuously troubled by all Indian bowlers. He should have gone back, first on the seventh ball of the innings, with Zaheer inducing an edge but Shikhar Dhawan dove in front of second slip and spilled the chance.

Fulton was on one at that time, and 11 runs later, he got another life when umpire Richard Kettleborough did not raise his finger on a plumb LBW decision by Shami. He eventually got out for 13, when Zaheer finally trapped him in the 13th over.

At the other end, Rutherford was brilliantly set up by Ishant in the 10th over earlier, with the batsman fishing outside the off-stump on more than one occasion. After four balls, the bowler finally found an edge as Ajinkya Rahane completed a superb diving catch at gully.

That was not the end of New Zealand's woes, with Ross Taylor (3) looking to play his shots from the very beginning, despite a difficult pitch. It did not pay off, as he drove Ishant on-the-up and Jadeja completed a stunning catch at short mid-off, leaving the Kiwis reeling at 30/3.

Williamson and McCullum then saw off the 25 minutes before lunch without any further loss, with the 50-run mark of the innings coming in the penultimate over of the session bowled by Jadeja.

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