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November 23, 2010
On New Zealand's 1999 tour of India, the heat, the noise and the crowds had all started to take their toll on the visitors. In the second Test, Rahul Dravid was further adding to their woes by doing what he does best - batting long. As former New Zealand fast bowler Dion Nash tells it, a butterfly suddenly landed in the middle of the pitch, and Dravid pulled away from the strike. While the rest of the players watched in "collective horror", Adam Parore stormed down the pitch and stomped on the insect. Dravid turned around and said loudly, "Oh no, he has kicked the butterfly, that's bad luck for you guys". It was indeed, for New Zealand went to suffer a big loss. The frustration of a typical Indian tour had had its effect on Parore.
This time around, there has been anything but frustration in New Zealand's camp heading in to the third Test. They even threatened to win the first Test, and comfortably drew the second. But just when everyone had forgotten the whitewash in Bangladesh that preceded this tour, they collapsed in this Test. India were allowed to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, admittedly with a little bit of help from the umpires.
New Zealand's performance today wasn't all that surprising. The ball turned and bounced, and with two umpiring howlers going against them, they didn't have much of a chance to save the game. It was their batting debacle on the first day on a true surface that was the real surprise, especially since it followed their creditable batting performances in the first two Tests, albeit on flat tracks.
"I can only look at the overall performance and say it was poor in this Test as compared to the first two Tests," Daniel Vettori said. "We were exceptional then because we grinded it out and put in good performances. In this part of the world, the first-innings runs keep you in the game, and then it's up to your bowling attack to take wickets but that didn't happen here. I think after winning the toss, scoring just 193 put us under a lot of pressure."
We might never know whether it was because New Zealand play better when they are the underdogs, which they were in the first two Tests, and stumbled here because they went in with higher expectations, or whether Brendon McCullum's last-minute injury completely unsettled the team. The second day was the best for batting on this pitch, and their bowlers couldn't make much headway. Their chance came on the third day morning; the ball was still hard and they removed Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, and Suresh Raina, but Vettori was left to rue their inability to dislodge the pair of Rahul Dravid and MS Dhoni.
"We bowled so well and took three wickets but couldn't capitalise on that. Dhoni and Dravid played exceptionally well. There were lots of niggles for us but I think India showed us how to bat, especially in this Test."
Their fight evaporated after the 193-run stand between Dravid and Dhoni. In the first Test at Ahmedabad, after a hard day's work when New Zealand had fought hard to push India on to the back foot, Sreesanth came to meet the press. After giving credit to the opposition, he couldn't help himself, saying "Let's see how they play on a proper turning track. I think they will struggle".
Today, they did exactly that, and collapsed in a heap. "Any time you lose, you surrender too early," Vettori said. "We knew we had to be positive this morning but couple of dismissals... There was a period where India bowled well but once you get through the new [hard] ball, it's a wicket where you can bat on for a long time. We are disappointed with our performance."
On the eve of the game, Vettori had said that they would be judged on how they performed in the final Test. India were without their best bowler Zaheer Khan and New Zealand had won the toss, but everything went pear-shaped from then on. "A loss is a loss. It should hurt us as much no matter the situation. To win the toss we were pretty happy with that. If we had gone through that period- just 58 overs were bowled - and come in the next morning, which was the best day to bat as India proved, but we made things difficult the way we batted on the first day."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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