India v New Zealand, 1st Test, Ahmedabad, 2nd day November 5, 2010

NZ press India into mistakes

ESPNcricinfo staff
New Zealand believed that if they stuck to their task long enough, the Indian batsmen would eventually crack

"Cricket is a funny game. If you compete with a team for long enough, something cracks," Mark Greatbatch said on the eve of the Test. "That's the challenge for us - to compete with India for a long period of time. Into the fourth day, fifth day, if we are still with them, they are human; they make mistakes like anyone else." India got a taste of that spirit today, and New Zealand got those mistakes they were hunting.

India had strolled to 383 for 4, without any alarms, when Sachin Tendulkar fell. It's tempting to add, 'against the run of play' to that sentence. Were India, Sachin Tendulkar in particular, and a touch too cautious? The bowling was steady, but by no means disciplined enough to be suffocating. Jeetan Patel was a touch short at times, and offered width on a few occasions as well. You felt for Daniel Vettori at that point, and wondered whether India were going to pile up an obscenely big total. Just yesterday, Rahul Dravid recovered from a very slow start to push India to a good position. So the fact that they were batting slowly didn't seem like end of the world. The reason for the mini-collapse was, as Greatbatch said, they made mistakes.

Three of them came in the first session. Sachin Tendulkar went down the track, but the mind seemed elsewhere: It was a weak push. If you are an ardent fan, you might say the ball stopped. If you are from Patel's family, you might say it dipped on Tendulkar. It didn't look like it did either. It was just a push-drive gone awry.

The second mistake came just before the lunch break, when Laxman played outside the line to a regular offbreak. Most times, simple things done well and consistently bring results in sport. It was just an off break; it didn't jump, it didn't skid alarmingly, it didn't turn too much, and it didn't keep low. Laxman just pushed outside the line.

The third was a mistake that wasn't entirely surprising. Suresh Raina likes to play on the up; he reaches forward and knives through the line. This wasn't the pitch for such extravagance. That particular delivery, from Kane Williamson, stopped, and Raina ended up punching lamely to short extra cover.

There was a fourth mistake too, from MS Dhoni, but he can perhaps be excused. Dhoni was shivering with fever during the lunch break and needed blankets to protect himself. "It was good to see him to go out to bat," Harbhajan Singh said. "It was a good sign from a captain; [if] he had wanted, he could have not gone out to bat. It was nice of him to bat and he also kept. He is feeling much better now."

Harbhajan ensured India's mistakes won't prove too costly by taking them to 489 with his highest Test score. Advantage India? Harbhajan was very wary. "It's very slow. There is no bounce, no turn and it's hard for the bowlers. We need a special effort to beat them.

"With Jesse and Vettori yet to come, we can't relax at any stage. We have to work really hard on this wicket. We need to bowl to our fields and work to our plans."

Not that New Zealand are too upbeat. It was just about survival at this moment. Patel knew New Zealand have to bat long and hard. What did he make out of the pitch? "It's starting to keep a little bit lower now," Patel said. "Tim McIntosh was off a short-of-length ball. That's Test cricket in the subcontinent. You expect the ball to go up and down, so we have to deal with it."

India's bowler says it's going to be very hard to take wickets. New Zealand's bowler says it won't be easy to bat on. Neither team appears to be playing mind games. Only time will tell what will happen in this Test. See you tomorrow.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Saad on November 6, 2010, 6:32 GMT

    @ SnowSnake you are showing signs that are characteristic of an Indian fan. (I am an Indian born Australian fan), judging players on the basis of one performance. Your saying Dhoni have been average at best while in the last season Dhoni have been on its peak as a test batsman (Check your stats). You can't compare Dhoni to Sangakkara who features in test XI as a specialist batsman, and Brad Hodge is not a wicketkeeper (loll). If your talking in terms of ODI, Dhoni apparantly hasn't played enough matches (due to overdue rests and fevers), or played with fevers, which makes it tough to hold any fair comparisons and anyhow he haven't batted at no 3 to score buckets of runs, while of the players you have noted down either opens the batting or comes down at no. 3. On the other hand Ponting was on his best when Australia was a fire power.(i.e. 2002/04 to 2008). A tip if you want more valid example use Andrew Strauss at the current situation.

  • Harish on November 6, 2010, 4:43 GMT

    After all the fuss Cricinfo made about RD's strike rate a couple of days back, they are somewhat sedate now...just shows that accurate cricket understanding does not come to all.

  • P on November 5, 2010, 23:46 GMT

    @akshay4india: Yes, Dhoni has not said anything inappropriate, but his recent performance is average at best. Compare Dhoni with Sanga, Tim Paine, Brade Hodge and other wicket keepers of the world. He does not stand out except for his initial 2-3 years. When a team is winning a captain looks good. See how Ponting looked when he had a team with fire power. There was a time when Dhoni could single handedly save a game. Now, he just does not have it in him. I would rather have Dravid do wicket keeping than have Dhoni. Here is what it comes down to. 1). Dhoni is not the best wicket keeper in the world, 2) His batting skills are on decline. Why then keep him?

  • Manu on November 5, 2010, 22:05 GMT

    Fellow enthusiasts, relax. Farhat Khan, chill. This is like reading a book again. And then one more time. India make 480, opposition has 60 odd for 2, they go on making one decent partnership on day three, then loose a number of wickets in a hurry. One tailender then makes an odd 30 and India end up retaining a lead of about 120. That's day three for you.

  • Akshay on November 5, 2010, 21:55 GMT

    @SnowSnake, First of all, Dhoni never takes credit for the win. He always acknowledges the efforts of everybody else before himself. Secondly, firing Dhoni would be the worst decision anyone could make. India is performing well right now, and Dhoni has done pretty well so far. He has a century against SA this year, got 70/80 against Sri Lanka, and although there is room for improvement he has done well.

  • khurram on November 5, 2010, 20:19 GMT

    after reading this article guyz i didnt surprise guess why? dhoni again came up with lame excuse but this time its new one. well done dhoni u only fit 100% when u play for csk. heee heee

  • kumar on November 5, 2010, 19:06 GMT

    Dhoni is a captain. I accept that captain should bat as well but not everytime. I don't think it's easy to take captaincy for such a big country with millions of hopes. Not to oppose anyone but I don't think firing Dhoni is a good decision. Sachin himself failed in so many matches so everyday is not everyone's. I am happy that enough batsmen from India performed well in first innings and made good score. India should mainly concentrate on bowling.

  • Dummy4 on November 5, 2010, 18:34 GMT

    "India's bowler says it's going to be very hard to take wickets." where as J.Patel commented "I've got to believe that I'm good enough to be here, and that I can take wickets at this level." This is the spirit that a sportsman must have, a killing way of performing which our Indian bowlers lack a lot. Regarding mistakes, cricket is a game of chance over opponents' mistakes and every team has a day and they must cash on that day.

  • Dummy4 on November 5, 2010, 18:11 GMT


  • Eashwar on November 5, 2010, 18:05 GMT

    Yes, Indians did make mistakes. The biggest culprit - Raina. Apart from the 120 on debut, he has not done much yet to prove his mettle. In tests, you need to be patient at times, unless you are as gifted as Sehwag. I still feel Raina/Yuvraj have a long way to go to call themselves as an apt replacement for Ganguly. With Ganguly's spot not perpanantly replaced, how can one say that Dravid's time is over and Pujara is his replacement(based on just 1 match) ???Management have to carefully plan the grooming of these younsters. Otherwise, when the fab three retire, we may find ourselves in a similar position as Australia find themselves now. May be ICC can arrange for a month slot ever year, where the younger lot from all teams clash in test matches in alien conditions.Eg Make Indian team clash England A for a test or 2 in England and then immediately send them to Windies for a test or 2 and then return back to India. This wont take more than 1 month.This will benefit all the teams.

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