New Zealand crush Indian dreams

Kiwis beat visitors by 40 runs despite Shikhar Dhawan's sparkling hundred

New Zealand crush Indian dreams

India conjured up hopes of a record run chase before a lower middle-order collapse saw the visitors slump to a 40-run defeat against New Zealand in a thrilling first Test here on Sunday.

Chasing an improbable 407 to win, India resumed their second innings at 87 for one and the visitors were on course with Shikhar Dhawan (115) and Virat Kohli (67) sharing 126 runs for the third wicket but pacer Neil Wagner took four crucial wickets in the post-lunch session to derail India’s chase at the Eden Park. After a series of low scores, Dhawan returned to form as he cracked a patient century and anchored the Indian innings along with Kohli, who too looked in good touch.

But Wagner’s double blow left India tottering at 270-5 at tea and it was left to skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja, who launched a counterattack to leave the Kiwis dazed but once they departed India failed to overhaul the target as they were dismissed for 366 in 96.3 overs.

Wagner (4/62) took the wickets of Dhawan, Kohli, Zaheer Khan (17) and Dhoni (39) to return with a eight-wicket haul from the match, while Tim Southee (3/81) added three wickets to his three-wicket haul of the first innings. Trent Boult (3/86) also contributed with a three-wicket haul. Earlier, India started the day still in need of 320 runs and Dhawan and Pujara looked to provide them a solid start. In the very first over of the day, Dhawan reached his half-century, getting the milestone ticked off early, facing 75 balls and hitting five fours.

Dhawan had a shaky start as he survived a couple of LBW shouts, even though the ball seemed to be sailing over the stumps. The Kiwis were bowling a nagging line and length, especially Southee and he was soon rewarded in the fifth over of the morning. He bowled a near-perfect delivery to Pujara who could do nothing but play at it and edged it to wicketkeeper BJ Watling. Pujara was out for 23 runs, leaving a mountain to be climbed for the rest of the batsmen.

Kohli then came out to bat and patiently saw off Southee’s super spell of 6-3-4-1. At the other end, Dhawan too continued to bat cautiously as the 100-run mark came in the 32nd over. They tempered their batting according to the situation, mixing aggression with defence. Dhawan and Kohli set the foundation for the chase but once they were gone, none of the Indian batsman could cross the 40-run mark.

After reducing India to 270-5 at tea, New Zealand made a cracking start to the post-tea session with Rohit Sharma (19) gone first ball, falling to a beautiful out-swinger from Southee. It was then left to skipper Dhoni and Jadeja to salvage something out of the situation as 137 runs were still remaining for victory. After Rohit’s dismissal, the first five overs cost 45 runs as the two batsmen smacked quite a few boundaries. In all they added 54 runs in just 5.4 overs, with Jadeja playing the more active partner.

The all-rounder hit 26 runs, off only 21 balls, with four fours and one six as the 50-run partnership came in only 33 balls. The target too came down to 83 runs when he was dismissed, caught at mid-on off Boult. Then, Zaheer Khan soaked up a lot of pressure for 32 balls and scored 17 runs (one four, one six) as Dhoni farmed the strike. Together they added 25 crucial runs, as the chase got more intense.

It was left to Wagner to get another breakthrough as he had Zaheer caught at slip. At eight down, it was only up to Dhoni to get his side across the finish line and he perished in this attempt, going after a short and wide one, again from Wagner, and played it onto his stumps. The second Test will start in Wellington on February 14.

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