'I apologised for getting Sachin out' - Andy McKay
The Boomtown Rats may have spoken for most when they sang 'Tell Me Why I Don't Like Mondays', but for New Zealand the first day of the week started perfectly. Sachin Tendulkar went to the ninth ball of the morning and by the time the opening hour was up, VVS Laxman and Suresh Raina had joined him back in the pavilion. India's lead was 135 but the situation was salvageable.
Seven hours later, when Brendon McCullum and Gareth Hopkins walked off, the complexion of the match was very different. Rahul Dravid grew in fluency as the day progressed and with MS Dhoni staying true to his attacking instincts en route to 98, New Zealand were pushed into a corner. It will now require a couple of their batsmen to do a Laxman-and-Dravid to get out of this one.
Andy McKay, who took 1 for 120 on debut and looked pretty lively at times, refused to accept that all was lost. "If we can bat in partnerships, play to our strengths and work through tomorrow ... we're obviously looking at it session by session," he said at the end of play. "There's still two days of cricket to go. Our goal is to push deep into the fifth day and see where we go from there. The pitch is pretty flat at the moment, but I'm sure it'll start taking a bit more turn over the next couple of days."
India will still have a pretty hard ball to call on come the fourth morning and McKay suggested that surviving the first session was pivotal to New Zealand's hopes of saving the game. "There's a difference between the new ball and the old ball, particularly the carry through to the keeper," he said. "We're starting to see a little bit more up and down [movement]. Not too much sideways. I feel that the new ball will do a bit more in the morning given that we've had earlier starts. There's a bit more in it for the seam bowlers that first hour. We used those conditions quite well this morning."
McKay was the one to break a few thousand hearts in the day's second over, slanting a quick delivery across Sachin Tendulkar to take the outside edge. "I actually apologised to the crowd at the end of the over," he said with a smile. "I bowled quite well yesterday and I think that warranted me taking the new ball with Chris Martin today. The ball that I got Sachin with, I was looking to bowl pretty quick and put a bit more effort into it. And it paid off. Another couple of wickets would have been great, but to get a player like Sachin Tendulkar as my first wicket is fantastic."
Except for a 71-run hour after lunch when Dravid and Dhoni found the gaps with regularity, New Zealand were seldom sloppy, and the bowlers were again backed up by some exceptional fielding. Dravid said as much later when asked about the rate of scoring. But once the ball went soft and with no recognised second spinner in the New Zealand ranks, India were always in control of the situation.
Though it's his aptitude with the bat that New Zealand need now, McKay insisted that he had enjoyed the tussle with a vaunted batting line-up in alien conditions. "I think I've been lucky with the handful of one-day games I've played," he said. "I've come up against Sehwag and a couple of other big players. I don't think one-day cricket's too far withdrawn from Test cricket, but this is obviously a different grade altogether. To come up against this line-up, while daunting, is also very exciting. I really enjoyed the opportunity today."