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Siddarth Ravindran in Bangalore
September 1, 2012
Barely had the Saturday crowd at the Chinnaswamy Stadium finished savouring one of their favourite shots in cricket - a Sachin Tendulkar straight drive - when Tendulkar was bowled through the gate by Doug Bracewell and India were down at 80 for 4. As in 2010, the apparent no-hopers from New Zealand had again pushed India to a tight spot. The rescue artist VVS Laxman was no longer around, and it was down to the Test rookies to save them.
Despite India still being nearly 300 behind, Suresh Raina didn't opt for wait-and-watch cricket. Instead, he went on the offensive, with a hat-trick of fours off Bracewell, and a patented extra-cover loft for six off Jeetan Patel. Suddenly, the New Zealand attack was no longer as menacing and the Indian fightback was well and truly on.
Raina said he was inspired by Ross Taylor's hurricane hundred on the first day. "Whenever I got the ball in my area, I made sure to bat positively because Taylor was going really great against us so this is the style I would like to play in Test cricket," he said. "At the same time I need to control my aggression, need to judge the line and length, so I am getting better. I have done well in one-dayers so hopefully I will be better in Test cricket too."
By the time Raina was dismissed for 55, India had progressed to 179 and Virat Kohli was looking assured. Though Raina was disappointed he couldn't carry on to a bigger score, it was a vital innings for him, as his place is the most vulnerable in the Indian line-up. After the mauling in England last year where he looked completely out of depth, this is Raina's comeback series and the challengers for his spot are plenty.
Raina knows the importance of this series for him, and it helped that he is fresh off several match-turning knocks in the recent limited-overs series in Sri Lanka. "There was no pressure to score big runs but I always looked to enjoy the game," he said. "I didn't do well in England but I went back to the domestic cricket, played couple of matches, scored a double hundred and then played crucial knocks against Sri Lanka and did well in the IPL.
"Now that we have a lot of young players, this is the time to score as many runs and book my place in the side because there are a lot of Test matches coming up in India and abroad as well."
With Raina's exit, New Zealand had a look-in, but like India's bowlers in the final session on Friday, the visitors also failed to produce breakthroughs late in the day, as Kohli and MS Dhoni helped India even up the match. Tim Southee, who justified his selection ahead of Chris Martin with three wickets, didn't think his side flagged as the day progressed.
"No, we're still creating chances and getting edges," Southee said. "I guess we didn't build enough pressure through dot balls. The ball got a bit old and it wasn't carrying. I thought we bowled well. It just gets easier as the ball gets older and unfortunately we couldn't get it to reverse. . "I don't think it was a very abrasive surface so the ball hasn't scuffed up as much as we would have liked. That's why we couldn't get it to reverse."
With the old ball proving ineffective, Southee said the first hour on Sunday will be crucial. "The wicket is a pretty good wicket. So I guess now it's a pretty important time for us with the second new ball (which is two overs away) to see if we can pick up the rest of the wickets."
Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Siddarth Ravindran
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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