India v New Zealand, 1st Test, Hyderabad, 3rd day August 25, 2012

New Zealand grit goes missing

New Zealand have given a decent account of themselves on recent tours of India, but haven't shown that scrapping ability in this Test yet

A young girl, sitting in the lower level of the pavilion stand at the Uppal stadium, barely a few rows behind the long-on boundary, was worried about the possibility of the ball hitting her courtesy a big stroke. "Don't worry," someone said. "It's New Zealand batting. Nothing's coming this way." The remark, only half in jest, sums up the kind of image the visitors have brought with them.

New Zealand have had a terrible start to the season after a long break, losing all but one of two Tests, five ODIs and two T20Is on their recent tour of the West Indies. The perception of their being pushovers actually does them a disservice, though, especially given their record in India. On their previous four visits here, New Zealand have drawn two Tests each time, and have lost three series by just one Test. They don't have superstar players as India do, playing spin does not come naturally to them, these conditions are quite alien to them yet somehow they have proved to be difficult to beat in India over the years.

In the first Test on their previous trip in 2010, they gave India a massive scare in Ahmedabad, replying with 459 - Kane Williamson made 131 on debut - to the hosts' 487 and then reducing them to 65 for 6 in the second innings. India had to rely on Harbhajan Singh's maiden Test hundred and VVS Laxman's 91 to avoid defeat. In the second Test in Hyderabad, India had hopes of capitalising on a 122-run lead but ran into Brendon McCullum, who cracked an astonishing second-innings double hundred, making 225 off 308, to draw the game.

Laxman had,at the time, praised New Zealand's showing in those two Tests. "They've always been [a tough bunch]," Laxman had said. "They are good players of spin bowling. The most important thing is that they are playing with a lot of patience and not throwing away their wickets."

Good players of spin, patience, not throwing it away. You would struggle to believe all of that after New Zealand's capitulation against R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha in the first innings of the ongoing Test. McCullum threw it away off the third ball of spin, holing out to cover. Williamson tried to cut a bouncing delivery and edged to slip, Daniel Flynn tried too many sweeps and was trapped lbw when he missed one.

Their lower order lasted less than 90 minutes this morning, and some had already started talking of a three-day finish when India, with an eye on the cloudy weather, refreshingly enforced the follow-on.

But New Zealand began even more refreshingly in their second innings, with McCullum and Martin Guptill showing the very patience Laxman had praised. McCullum's game is based on instinctive, often indiscreet, hitting, and you could see he was making an exaggerated effort to defend. He lunged forward to block Zaheer Khan's length deliveries from round the stumps; normally he would have tried to smash them. He took it to the extreme against Ojha, playing out 32 dots of 35 deliveries faced.

He swept the spinners frequently during that 225, but today, he was almost Dravid-like in his defensive intent. Despite the rain saving New Zealand a session-and-a-half of bother, there are still two days left, and they still need 238 more to make India bat again.

But if they are to "fight" in this Test, something their offspinner Jeetan Patel said they do a lot, New Zealand have two of their best batsmen out there right now. McCullum, given how destructive he can be, and how much he resisted self-destructing today. Williamson, probably their best player of spin, who in his debut Test innings alone faced 212 deliveries from the India spinners. He also lasted more balls in the first innings than the rest of the New Zealand top five put together had. Williamson is almost sub-continental against spin, minus the wrists. He plays with soft hands, is quick to go forward or back, bends very low when he stretches out, and makes sure he puts even slightly loose deliveries away.

History can only tell you so much, though. How will New Zealand approach this game now? Weather is of course a huge factor, but there is too much time left for them to depend too much on it. James Franklin, who made a calm unbeaten 43 in the first innings, spoke about what New Zealand needed to do.

"We have been working on defensive options because we have to bat a long time now," Franklin said. "We have to bat at least another day and a half. It's all about time at the crease. Our guys are capable enough technically to capitalise on any bad balls. It may look like we have had a slow start but it's also a reflection of how well the Indians have bowled.

"There has to be a bit of discipline. We can't rely solely on scoring fast. We have to take a bit of time out of the game. The guys are trying to dig in there and play as long as they can. And put away the bad balls. It's about not giving India too much sniff."

Franklin's own method might sound too simple, but that is what New Zealand will have to do, if they are to get anywhere close to drawing this one. "I don't think there was a massive amount of turn. Ashwin got a few balls to turn and bounce but that was the exception rather than the norm. Obviously there were always going to be some balls that were going to spin past me. I was just trying not to worry about them too much and focus on the balls coming to you each time."

Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mathew on August 27, 2012, 11:53 GMT

    NZ seem to have a lack of confidence as well as ability. They are a proud cricketing nation that have arrived in Ind with no real game plan that I could see, both with the bat and ball. I hope for a better second test from them. Ind look a different side at home, one which we will get used to as they won't need a passport for 2 years.

  • Mathew on August 27, 2012, 6:50 GMT

    Most sides look very good against NZ right now. Ind look a decent side at home. But they could beat everyone and his dog at home and it won't stop the critics. After seeing Ind the Eng series might be a cracker if certain Eng players have finally learnt lessons on how to play spin. Looking forward to the next match and am hoping NZ show a little more fight.

  • Naveen on August 26, 2012, 16:26 GMT

    @ Gimhana Fernando-> did you see the game? did yiu see the ball spinning viciously? no you would not have seen a typical indian turner. It was the bowlers who made learnt to appreciate effort of the bowlers as well.

  • Dummy4 on August 26, 2012, 16:09 GMT

    o come on this is just the first test.And every one is writing them off.Just like India gets written off overseas.This series it is unlikely that NZ will come back since it is just a 2 test match series and no practice game in between.So I think India will pull this off 2-0

  • Rahul on August 26, 2012, 15:45 GMT

    Few people here r talking abt indias overseas record. Can somebody tel me wen any other subcontinent team won series outside Asia at least india is unbeaten in their home

  • Jaydeep on August 26, 2012, 14:24 GMT

    xylo is right. I'm sure Buchanan's presence has something to do with the sudden absence of famed Kiwi grit. On the other hand, Kane Williamson is looking better and better. Definitely the next captain. Go Kane!

  • Rajesh on August 26, 2012, 12:46 GMT

    This outcome is not surprising at all. What remains to be seen is how India performs on such tracks against teams like Aus, Eng and SA. If they can beat these teams in the same fashion, then as a cricket lover I would firmly believe that there is no team currently which can play well in all conditions. The Indians can then be forgiven for being beaten black and blue in Aus and Eng.

  • kevin on August 26, 2012, 11:26 GMT

    I have been following NZ cricket for almost 50 years now and this is surely the worst era I can remember. This team is a disgrace. There is no sign of any fight. I can remember Warren Lees battling for hours in India, Mark Greatbatch in Perth. This team shows nothing. The captain is useless and should step down, a very poor and insipid choice. It is hard to know what options are left, but this team looks unlikely to ever show anything. Heads must roll. We badly need openers. Guptill is not a test opener. What a sad lack of depth we have, and no one in the tail is is likely to hang around. Thank god we don't play Afganistan, what an embarassment that might be.

  • Gaurav on August 26, 2012, 11:11 GMT

    Best thing is pitch was made to help spinners and to give home advantage to India ,its good that another concrete road was not prepared to boost the records of Indian batsman.Winning is most important instead of bragging records.

  • Dummy4 on August 26, 2012, 11:04 GMT

    Suppose the Kiwi's were up against a team like Sri Lanka or Australia ( home or away ,either one ) they would put up much better performances.India at home are tough for any side.Add the fact that the pitch suited spinners remarkably,and the visitors have little chance.Ashwin is an excellent bowler and so is Ojha but they perform best at home and in the subcontinent,so it would be a more effective way to measure the Kiwi's batting by testing them on home turf as well.

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