NZ's batting fragility bails India out
When Ross Taylor hit a controlled cover drive for four off Umesh Yadav, one middle-aged man in the stand told his friend, "Taylor looks good for another century in the game," to which his friend replied, "Yes, that will set up the game." It's not often that you get home fans wanting the opposition captain to score a century with a Test evenly balanced, but it was an indication of how lightly most people take this New Zealand side.
And New Zealand demonstrated why. On a placid Chinnaswamy Stadium track, with the Indian bowling looking listless, and the fields rarely attacking, the visitors contrived to surrender nine wickets and not one of their players made it to a half-century, though each of their middle-order batsmen went past 30.
Daniel Flynn, in particular, is becoming a master of the insubstantial cameo: since his recall earlier this year, he has scored more than 20 in five of his eight innings without converting to a half-century. Flynn had a set Taylor for company early on, and was helped by a series of long hops and full tosses from India's spinners. Without looking troubled and shelving that sweep shot which had led him down three times this series, he coasted to 31 before, as he does so often, he had a brain-fade. With two slips lying in wait, he guided an R Ashwin delivery straight to first slip.
It was one of many wickets that New Zealand have gifted in this Test, the worst of which perhaps were Martin Guptill's two dismissals - tamely chipping a full delivery to midwicket in the first innings, and then inside-edging a full toss on to the stumps in the second. The most expensive, though, could well be James Franklin's misjudgement in the final hour of the third day as he was beaten by the turn after charging out to Ashwin. New Zealand were 216 for 6 at that stage, and a lead of 300 wasn't wishful thinking, but 20 minutes later they were 222 for 9.
"That happens sometimes when we take a positive approach," Bob Carter, New Zealand's assistant coach, said. "We have to go out there and play the strokes. That helps you to get more opportunities to score runs. I think James was doing the right thing by trying to get some runs for us. You should also credit the bowlers for the way they bowled."
The giveaways from the opposition batsmen helped India, and while it may seem churlish to question an attack that is set to roll over the opposition for less than 250 for the third time in four innings, there have been worrying passages of play for Indian fans in this Test.
Umesh Yadav rattled Kruger van Wyk with body blows off successive deliveries, but hasn't been much of a threat otherwise in this series. He has leaked plenty of runs in this match, through an abundance of half-volleys on the leg stump and an over-reliance on the short ball on an unresponsive surface.
When Franklin and Flynn, two of the lesser lights of the New Zealand line-up, started building a partnership, there was little threat from India's spinners, who couldn't reproduce the accuracy of their Hyderabad performance. The field was quickly spread out, and New Zealand began to milk the bowling without needing to take risks.
A similar flatness was evident in India's bowling on the first day, when Taylor got going, and later with van Wyk and Doug Bracewell going strong. With New Zealand regularly finding the boundaries, India looked short of ideas, and ways to stifle the batting.
Granted there was little reverse-swing on offer, and that the track provided little help for the bowlers once the ball got old, but allowing New Zealand's lightweight batting to score at nearly four an over through the match, and posing so few questions of them is a cause for concern.
Here they have been bailed out by a slew of mistakes from the visitors, but how will they fare when up against a line-up of batsmen with more of an appetite for runs, and a tighter technique? Ashwin and Ojha's outstanding recent home record has been built against two of the most fragile teams around, and they will have a sterner test when the likes of Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott come visiting. Assessment of how good or how bad this relatively new-look attack is will have to wait till they perform against opponents whom the crowds won't be egging on.
Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo