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For New Zealand's No. 3, conquering the turning ball was one of the big challenges in his comeback innings
November 12, 2010
In the first Test, it was a man now walking the straight and narrow and a debutant that took the game away from India. Having travelled a thousand miles south-east to Hyderabad, they were thwarted for half the day by an opening bat coming off a pair, and a No. 3 not considered good enough to play the first Test.
Martin Guptill could be forgiven for thinking that he got the chop because of his poor form in the one-day arena. His last Test innings had been 58 against Australia in March, and BJ Watling, who replaced him at the Motera, had only passed 50 once in 10 attempts. Given his chance here, he used up his quota of luck very early on. Sreesanth produced a peach to take the outside edge when he had just 5, and Guptill was pretty much into the plush changing room by the time Kumar Dharmasena had a change of heart.
"I'm not sure who refers it," said Guptill after the day's play. "I was pretty much in the tunnel on the way out when I got called back. I was pretty angry with myself, and was preparing to sit down and ponder what happened. Getting called back gave me a second wind and I carried on from there."
There was one more kiss from Dame Fortune when he had 11, with MS Dhoni unable to hold on to a sharp chance off Harbhajan Singh's bowling, and Guptill made India pay either side of lunch with some superb strokes, especially down the ground. He and Tim McIntosh added 147, a stand in which he was the aggressor, growing in confidence with each over that went by.
McIntosh's hundred was even more unexpected given how he had struggled at the Motera. No opening batsman from New Zealand had scored a century overseas since Stephen Fleming at Trent Bridge in 2004, and only 11 players have ever rebounded from a pair with a hundred. Here, the first half of his innings was patchy, but by the time he stepped out to Pragyan Ojha and swatted him into the stand at midwicket, he too had taken an infusion of confidence. The lovely lofted drive off Harbhajan that took him to 98 was another stroke that caught the eye, illustrating just how his mood had changed during the course of the innings.
"We were just telling each other to keep backing ourselves and be positive," Guptill said. "The wicket is pretty flat, but the Indians bowled in some pretty demanding areas and we tailored our games to counter that. We got through it well and put on a good partnership. It really gave the momentum. It was disappointing to lose Tim at the end of the day but that's how cricket goes. Hopefully, we can push on tomorrow and get a big total on the board."
For Guptill, whose back-foot play hasn't always been convincing, conquering the turning ball was the biggest challenge. "I've worked on playing spin very hard over the last year or so," he said. "I was just telling myself to be positive. I showed intent and got through it very well."
|"I think we need to get 500. That would be a competitive score. If our bowlers can put in a good performance, we can rock n roll India." Martin Guptill|
Even though they had India reeling at 15 for 5 in the second innings in Ahmedabad, Guptill's assessment of what would be a par score said much about the fear factor that India's batting line-up can inspire. "I think we need to get 500," he said. "That would be a competitive score. If our bowlers can put in a good performance, we can rock n roll India."
Both sides appeared to be far happier with the surface prepared than they had been in Ahmedabad. "There's something in it for everyone," said Guptill. "There's a lot more pace in the wicket. The batsmen can drive down the ground with comfort. There's more bounce for the bowlers. That's good for the game."
Eric Simons, India's bowling coach, was a little more circumspect. "One can really only assess the wicket once you get to days three and four," he said. "We call it moving days when the Test really moves forward. But on first opinion we think there's more in it for us, the way our bowling line-up is set up. There seems to be a bit more bounce for the spinners in particular. We're all quite pleased with the carry the seamers got as well. We've started seeing some reverse which is something that our seamers can exploit."
They'll need to on the second day if Jesse Ryder and New Zealand aren't to reprise the doughty batting that so nearly embarrassed India in the opening game.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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