India v New Zealand, 1st Test, Ahmedabad, 3rd day

Ryder and Williamson defy India

The Bulletin by Siddarth Ravindran

November 6, 2010

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New Zealand 331 for 5 (Ryder 103, Williamson 87*, McCullum 65, Taylor 56) trail India 487 by 156 runs
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Jesse Ryder drives down the ground, India v New Zealand, 1st Test, Ahmedabad, 3rd day, November 6, 2010
Jesse Ryder became the third fastest New Zealand batsman to reach 1000 Test runs © Associated Press
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Jesse Ryder, playing his first Test in 14 months, and Kane Williamson, playing his first Test, batted with the assurance of gnarled pros to help New Zealand clamber out of trouble to a position where they have an outside chance of a first-innings lead. The prospect of New Zealand being asked to bat again had loomed large at lunch, after they lost both Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor in the space of six runs when they were less than halfway to the follow-on mark.

Ryder and Williamson put on 194 - New Zealand's second-highest stand for the fifth wicket - as India's bowlers toiled for more than two sessions without success. It was only in the final over of the day that India broke the partnership. Two deliveries after Ryder brought up his third Test century - all of which have been against India - with a carve through cover, Sreesanth got one to nip past Ryder's bat and into the pad. By then, New Zealand had belied expectations that they would be rolled over by the world's No. 1 side.

Smart Stats

  • Ross Taylor has 356 runs in his last four innings against India with two centuries and one half-century.
  • VVS Laxman took his 120th catch in Tests, bringing him level with Ian Botham and Colin Cowdrey in the list of fielders with the most Test catches. He is the second among Indians in the list, behind Rahul Dravid who has 198.
  • The 194-run partnership between Jesse Ryder and Kane Williamson is New Zealand's highest for the fifth wicket against India. Jesse Ryder has been involved in two century partnerships for the fifth wicket against India.
  • Williamson became the sixth New Zealand batsman to score a half-century on debut against India and the first to do it in India since 1965.
  • Ryder's average of 52.68 is the highest among all New Zealand batsmen who have scored at least 1000 Test runs.

The pair had just about survived a nervy six-over spell before lunch, but were more confident after the break - Williamson began the session with a wonderful back-foot drive through cover. Both batsman were circumspect early on, with few attacking strokes against India's senior bowlers Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan. They started to be more enterprising once Sreesanth and the part-time spinners - Virender Sehwag and Suresh Raina - were brought on. Sreesanth nearly got the breakthrough when Ryder wafted at a wide delivery on 11, only for Rahul Dravid to fluff a shoulder-high chance at a wide first slip.

After that, Ryder dished out plenty of boundaries, using his feet and punching Raina past mid-on, and pulling Sreesanth to midwicket. Williamson was also secure at the other end, using the sweep and cut whenever the spinners dropped short and made unfussy progress towards a half-century. India were out of ideas on a pitch with nothing it in to alarm the batsmen, and even called on Sachin Tendulkar for a rare bowling spell.

Even with the second new ball, India couldn't hassle batsmen much. Ojha got the odd one to turn and beat the outside edge, and India's one big chance after tea was when Williamson nicked Zaheer to the keeper when on 56, but the umpire Kumar Dharmasena didn't pick it up, to the disbelief of the Indians.

New Zealand will be particularly pleased with the fightback since they had to battle spin for much of the innings. This is their first international match since the drubbing in the one-dayers in Bangladesh last month, a series in which their batting was clueless against Bangladesh's army of slow bowlers.

Ryder called for a runner before tea, as he was struggling with cramps, but even that didn't hamper his footwork against spin. One of the highlights of his innings was when he sashayed down the track to loft Harbhajan over long-on for six.

His partner Williamson had started his one-day career with a couple of ducks, but there was no such stuttering start to his Test career. Plenty of times he showed why people in New Zealand rave about his backfoot technique, rocking back to crash the ball through covers. It was a dead track, and it's still early days, but New Zealand seem to have unearthed a solid batsman their traditionally fragile batting could do with.

Even before Ryder and Williamson came together, the New Zealand batsmen were comfortable against everything thrown at them by India. McCullum, needing to justify his place as a specialist batsman after giving up wicketkeeping gloves earlier this year, continued the form that has resulted in his most productive phase in Tests - two hundreds and three half-centuries in his previous six Tests.

Taylor barely scored in the V and used the cut to make much of his runs. It was only after McCullum began to open up with a lovely on-drive against the turn off Ojha and a powerful uppish cut off Zaheer more than half an hour after the start, that Taylor switched gears - a bunch of boundaries against Harbhajan bringing up his half-century. Soon after, he gifted his wicket, gently clipping Harbhajan to midwicket, and trudged off with his hand on his forehead.

Worse followed as McCullum, hoping to become the first New Zealand opener since Stephen Fleming in 2004 to make a Test century on tour, fell to a classical spinner's dismissal: a loopy delivery dipped in and spun sharply away, dragging him out of the crease and beating his bat, and MS Dhoni did the rest. New Zealand were in deep trouble at 137 for 4 before another big partnership made it their day.

Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo

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