Two interesting days of cricket Mark: a day of frenetic drama followed by a day of tough, intense and traditional Test cricket. Which one would you pick?
Mark Richardson: I think I would pick today's - it's a good old-fashioned Test right now and New Zealand have it all to do. I think it has been a good wicket and New Zealand didn't play particularly well on that first morning. The perfect wicket is one that offers something to the bowlers early on and then flattens out and then offers turn later on and that is what I think we will get here. I think the Indian bowlers summed up the conditions very well to take this game by the scruff of neck in the first session. New Zealand should have allowed India, at the most four wickets, get through that and look to capitalise. They got themselves out of the rubbish they were in a certain extent through Jesse Ryder and Daniel Vettori. But 300 was never going to be enough. We have seen the quality in this Indian side; they are one run behind after two days and if New Zealand can't get a breakthrough early on the third day, they will be in trouble.
SM: Was it a brave decision by Mahendra Singh Dhoni to put New Zealand in?
MR: Yes it was. I think what happened in the fifth one-dayer did play on his mind and perhaps that is why he decided to bowl first. In retrospect it was a great decision. It is always a gamble, when the wicket doesn't look that good, to put a side in, because you open yourself up if you cannot bowl them out in a day. So you have to say the tourists came over and summed up the conditions better than the New Zealand captain, who said he would have batted had he won the toss.
SM: How do you view the efforts of Vettori and Ryder in terms of keeping this series competitive?
MR: Ryder played a wonderful innings. He is a guy who is belligerent and he smashes it in one-day and Twenty20 cricket. He showed he can bat the way you should in a Test match by being patient and well-processed. And for such a young guy I thought it was a brilliant innings. I think he is a player who can score a lot of runs for New Zealand in Test cricket. He will be needed in this series. He bowls well and is more than just a fifth seamer.
Vettori has been out of form with the bat. He has scored a lot of runs for New Zealand and in fact has been their best performer for some years now; in fact you could say that you could have picked him in the top six. And every time he would get promoted he would miss out. To see him scoring runs is important for the side. He is New Zealand's only spin bowler in this match; Ross Taylor bowls a little spin here and there but nothing of note. Vettori hasn't bowled New Zealand to victory over a top side for a long time. While he may not get a chance to bowl his side to victory in this match his bowling will be important to ensure that New Zealand will be competitive and don't get bunged by an innings or 10 wickets. Napier and Wellington have wickets where he will be needed to come to the fore because I think they will be slow, turning wickets.
SM: Could New Zealand have done much better with their bowling?
MR: I think they bowled well. I think they were a little short in terms of taking wickets. If anything, I think they erred on the short side and they got punished square of the wicket far too often. When they got the ball up they took wickets; if you have a look at the wickets that fell here today, they were from fuller balls and I think they need to have the confidence to fond that length more often. It wasn't until later on in the day that they started getting driven down the ground. Being hit straight should be the preferred method of being hit - though no bowler likes being hit - instead of being carted around.
I think they need to improve though they toiled away. To get guys like Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman out after they got starts showed that they hung in there because those are players who after they get starts, go on to get big knocks.
|"Daniel Vettori hasn't bowled New Zealand to victory over a top side for a long time. While he may not get a chance to bowl his side to victory in this match, his bowling will be important to ensure that New Zealand will be competitive and don't get bunged by an innings or 10 wickets"|
SM: The Indian batsmen showed a lot of versatility; they were ready to graft it out today.
MR: Yes and I think they taught the New Zealand top order a bit of a lesson there in terms of how to play yourself in, in a Test. It doesn't look like a wicket where you can go out there and time the ball brilliantly from ball one. The Indians showed that you have to earn your boundaries - certainly Dravid showed that with some good leaving and waiting till he established himself. We know that Tendulkar is a class act but even showed that he can graft for a long time in this innings; he didn't dominate from ball one. Gambhir was interesting in the way he liked to walk down the wicket; but obviously there was a process to it; he was trying to negate the swing. I think they showed New Zealand a lot on terms of applying yourself out in the middle.
SM: Is it crucial how you leave the ball here?
MR: Yes it is. But it doesn't mean that you leave everything because if the ball is seaming, you don't want it to come back in and knock back your off stump. The most important thing in when playing in New Zealand is that you have to get close to the ball and you have to defend it close because there tends to be some sideways movement and if you don't defend it under your eyes and aren't accurate and precise with your footwork you can get caught-out. That is the main thing. I am telling you right now that our wickets in this series will not seam for the whole game. They may be like this wicket here. I don't expect the next two surfaces to offer half as much as this one did on the first day. I think India used the opportunity well because there will generally be flatter wickets than they had the last time they were here.
SM: Finally, do you think this is has been an ideal Test wicket so far?
MR: I think this one looks like it is going to be a good one. The wicket at the Gabba in Brisbane was an ideal Test wicket for a long time. It had a little bit of sideways movement for the first two sessions, flattened out and was good for batting on day two and three and four started to spin and day five was a nightmare to bat on. I don't think this will ever become difficult to bat on. I think it will get lower and lose its pace; its been a fault with New Zealand pitches, they don't deteriorate as fast as they should; they tend to get lower and slower, especially if they aren't green seamers at the start. This should turn a bit but I don't think we will get a scenario where it will be an up and down minefield on the fifth day, which I don't have a problem with.
SM: Thank you Mark for your views. We will hear from you at the end of this Test again.
Former New Zealand opener Mark Richardson is now a television commentator and cricket columnist