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The Bulletin by Siddarth Ravindran
November 4, 2010
India 329 for 3 (Sehwag 173, Dravid 104) v New Zealand
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Analysis : Determined Dravid overcomes the pressure
Features : Patel's escape, and free-hits in Tests
News : Ryder rues missed chances
Analysis : Sehwag cool in the heat of the battle
Preview : Low-key build-up as mismatch beckons
Matches: India v New Zealand at Ahmedabad
Series/Tournaments: New Zealand tour of India [Nov 2010]
New Zealand were given an early glimpse of the difficult task ahead of them in India as the home team moved into a commanding position on the first day in Ahmedabad. Virender Sehwag sprinted to a century in just over a session while Rahul Dravid compiled an old-school Test hundred - starting off cautiously and opening up once set - to put India on course for a mammoth first-innings total.
India were thrilled at winning the toss on a track with little in it for either spinners or the quicks: MS Dhoni had a huge grin when he said, "Well, of course we want to bat," while Harbhajan Singh, watching from the boundary, threw his hands up in jubilation on hearing the news.
After that, it was a Sehwag treat for the sprinkling of fans who had turned up at Motera. In the third over, he jokingly signaled for a free-hit after Chris Martin overstepped. There aren't any in Tests, but that didn't stop Sehwag from carving the next delivery through covers for four to get his first runs. Two more off-side boundaries rounded off the over, and there was no slowing him down after that, despite several short deliveries to stop the drives.
Sehwag predominantly scored through the off side, cutting deliveries that were even fractionally wide, and skipping away from the stumps to play inside-out shots off the spinners. Despite going at a run-a-ball, there was none of the violence usually associated with that rate of scoring; he relied mostly on timing and placement as he peppered the off side for 18 boundaries.
India were 60 for 0 in the 12th over, the New Zealand attack was looking blunt, and Sehwag was enjoying himself, laughing after slipping while taking a single. Part-timer Jesse Ryder, though, got the final delivery of that over to move in a touch and had Gautam Gambhir inside-edging onto the stumps. It ended an innings where Gambhir had struggled for fluency as he searched for his form of 2009. He fed on leg-side offerings from debutant Hamish Bennett, who bowled with plenty of pace but didn't trouble the batsmen too much.
Sehwag was unfazed by the loss of Gambhir, taking two fours an over off offspinner Jeetan Patel three times, and galloped to 82 with 15 minutes to go for lunch but couldn't become only the fifth batsman to make a century in the first session of a match.
Dravid, though, was struggling for runs: he was middling many deliveries but stroking them straight to the fielders. His recent form has been a bit of concern - just one half-century in his previous nine innings - and those worries remained as he scratched his way to 20 off 106 deliveries against a weak attack on a flat track. A couple of boundaries off Ryder midway through the session finally gave him some momentum after which he was more aggressive.
Sehwag had also toned down his aggression after lunch, and seemed to be struggling with his fitness; he rarely zipped through between the wickets, preferring to jog whenever possible and asked for a runner after tea. He was hardly bothered by the bowling till he was well past his fifth Test hundred of the year - a near run-out in the sixth over being the only major moment of concern.
Towards tea, though, he was tiring and offered a slew of opportunities to New Zealand: when on 144 he survived a close lbw call against Daniel Vettori after missing a reverse-sweep, a sharp caught-and-bowled chance in the next over and Bennett misjudged a catch at long-on in the final over before tea. The simplest opportunity came soon after the break when substitute Martin Guptill dropped a skier at midwicket.
As Sehwag slacked, Dravid took charge. The sumptuous cuts of old were back, especially against the spinners, and there were several types of on-drives for four as well. He was hit on the head by a Bennett bouncer, but two deliveries later he contemptuously pulled a short ball for four.
Sehwag was bowled by Vettori while lazily attempting an inside-out drive, but Dravid reached his 30th Test hundred soon after, moving past Don Bradman in the list of highest century-makers. He had taken only 64 deliveries for his second fifty; his first had come off 151. Though he was dismissed for 104 in familiar fashion - bottom-edging a cut - the 237-run stand with Sehwag had already put India in charge.
New Zealand's bowling was average, with the spinners not extracting much turn and the quick bowlers, Chris Martin and Bennett, rarely beating the bat on the slow track. The talk in the lead-up to the series had been about how New Zealand will be able to take 20 wickets in a Test against the Indian batting juggernaut, and that is a question their think-tank will be pondering over after the first day.
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