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November 4, 2010
Much of New Zealand's plight today, when they conceded 329 runs for three wickets, was to be expected. The bowlers were sure to struggle, and they did. Virender Sehwag, their chief tormentor, summed it up perfectly: "One bowler [Hamish Bennett] was on debut and the other [Chris Martin] was not experienced in Indian conditions. And it's difficult for spinners to bowl in the opening session of the first day on an Indian pitch."
It was expected that New Zealand, even after such a hard day, would accentuate the positive. "India were looking like they would finish on 400 at the end of the day at one stage and to finish on 300-plus was [due to] some good work from us," Jesse Ryder said.
He also saw some hope in the pitch. "The pitch was two-paced and a bit up and down in the end[of the day]," he said. "Hopefully it looks like it will flatten out a little bit more. It shouldn't be too bad; we have to see over the next couple of days."
Sehwag - again, perhaps as expected - sought to sow some doubts in the opposition minds by projecting real and imaginary fears. "The pitch will get slower as we go on. You have to be really patient as a batsman," he said.
It was expected, too, that Sehwag in the mood would upset any bowling and fielding plans. "We had our plans against Sehwag," Ryder said. "We knew he would have a go at us. At times we didn't bowl to our plans and we let him get away. It's hard to stop a batsman who is going like that unless you stick to your plans, and we didn't always do that. We wanted to tuck him up and not let him free his arms but we gave some width early on. That didn't help us."
What wasn't expected, though, was New Zealand's catching - four chances were dropped. Rahul Dravid was dropped on 28 and 92 by Gareth Hopkins, who was up early in the first instance and couldn't get his palms around the ball in the second. Sehwag was dropped on 144 and 155: Jeetan Patel offered the first reprieve- a very tough chance, he would have been happy to literally save his face - and the substitute Martin Guptill dropped an easy chance, running in from long-on to drop a skier.
Ryder described the agony of it all: "You come here to play on their home turf and it's been a long day on the field. And it's really disappointing to drop those catches. Catches are always vital; if we had taken those the story might have been different."
Of course that's without legislating for the unpredictable Sehwag, who made this game sound incredibly easy: "I just told myself I'd score a hundred if I survived the first hour." He duly did both, and was then asked for his reactions to Sachin Tendulkar's 50th hundred (he's on 49). "Has the 50 happened? I will speak when it happens. Nazar mat lagao (Don't hex it!)"
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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