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Siddarth Ravindran in Bangalore
August 31, 2012
The first day of the Bangalore Test was a perfect one for neutrals as the underdogs New Zealand had their most productive day of the series, setting up a challenge for India's batsmen over the weekend. New Zealand fans will be thrilled with the scoreline of 328 for 6, but India weren't too disheartened after a day on which they were distinctly second-best.
The track at the Chinnaswamy Stadium is traditionally batting friendly - the last time a team batting first didn't make 400 was back in 2001 when England made 336 - and left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha was confident India could match any score New Zealand put up. "The way things are going it's a good wicket to bat," he said after the first day's play. "The kind of batting we have, I am quite confident we can put up a good score."
India could have eroded New Zealand's advantage had they managed to prise apart a quick 82-run stand for the seventh wicket between Kruger van Wyk and Doug Bracewell in the third session, but Ojha was satisfied with India's bowling performance. "It was a good first-day wicket and in this kind of surface, they were trying to be aggressive. I think that is what their game plan was. Ross [Taylor] played quite well too. Nevertheless, we picked up six wickets today."
New Zealand maintained a punishing run-rate through much of the day, picking on fast bowler Umesh Yadav in particular. Yadav was generally either too short or too full, gifting boundary-balls in nearly every over as he was taken for almost six an over. The rest of the attack too looked clueless during the hour after lunch when Taylor and Daniel Flynn were scoring at seven an over. Ojha, though, was adamant the bowling didn't lack discipline.
"Zak [Zaheer Khan] bowled superbly in his first spell," he said. "There was one catch dropped (Martin Guptill was put down by Virat Kohli at third slip in the 10th over), and if that had been taken then it would have been a different story as at that time the pitch was doing a bit. I think Ash [R Ashwin] and Umesh bowled well too. Taking six wickets on this kind of a wicket, which is not doing much, was a good effort."
While the consensus was that it was a bat-first surface, the quicks were expected to get some assistance in the first hour before the track eased out. To everyone's surprise, though, MS Dhoni decided to open the bowling with Ojha, the first time India have started an innings with a specialist spinner. Ojha didn't pick up any wickets with the new ball, but explained the thinking behind the unexpected move. "There was some moisture on the wicket and sometime when there is moisture the ball grips, so we wanted to make use of that."
New Zealand opener Guptill was nearly dismissed by Ojha in the third over, when an edge flew past slip, after which he decided to attack the spinner. "I was a little bit surprised (when Ojha opened the bowling)," Guptill said. "We got some interesting balls early on but we were able to get over it."
While his 53 and Taylor's blistering century have set New Zealand on course for a competitive total, Guptill was aware his side still had plenty to do. "We have to keep up the positive intent. If we put 400-450 on the board and attack them then it's going to put some pressure on India," he said. "There is a bit of swing and seam on this wicket and if we can pick up a few wickets early on, it'll be great."
Ahead of the Test, New Zealand captain Taylor had spoken about how one bad session is enough to ruin a Test; the weekend will show whether his side can sustain their performance after a strong start.
Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Siddarth Ravindran
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