Henry lauds New Zealand's 'outstanding' day
New Zealand were pleasantly surprised to find some help for their quicks in the pitch at Eden Gardens, fast bowler Matt Henry has said. Henry took three wickets on a day New Zealand kept India to 239 for 7. This could still be a big total given India's spinners and the absence of Kane Williamson, but it was overall quite a satisfactory day for New Zealand considering they had lost the toss.
"It was a fair wicket," Henry said. "Obviously, coming over here you probably don't expect conditions like that at the start of the day so we knew we had to make the most of that, especially being put in with the ball. It was always going to be tough work through that middle period when it would become a good surface. We had to find ways to put pressure on when we weren't taking wickets and as a bowling group that is a box we ticked today."
Before they put that pressure through dry bowling, though, New Zealand had to make sure they used the pitch that would have sweated in the preceding days because of the overcast skies and the covers on it. "We knew it was important with the new ball to take advantage of it because the wicket had been under covers for a long time so that was going to be a crucial part of the game," Henry said. "The way we went about our work today was outstanding. We knew we had to make sure we controlled the run rate because it is very tough in these conditions to take wickets.
"Moving forward from there it was just important to maintain those [bowling] partnerships through the middle and make sure we could create pressure by building dots. Our spinners were outstanding today. Jeets [Jeetan Patel] and Sat [Mitchell Santner] were fantastic in allowing us to build a lot of pressure, and that manifested to what happened at the end of the day."
Patel was in England last week, not even dreaming of playing for New Zealand when an injury to Mark Craig resulted in a call-up. Henry, who hardly ever bowls badly, is not a regular in the New Zealand XI because of the surplus pace resources. He, too, was not part of the original squad, but came in only thanks to an injury to Tim Southee. For such players, keeping themselves fit and prepared is a big challenge, but New Zealand players have shown they are always prepared.
"I knew I had to make sure I did all my preparation," Henry said. "I've still being doing a lot of training and work behind the scenes. Even not being able to play in South Africa, I was still doing a lot of work with the coaches in the nets and making sure I was ready to go if needed. We had a few warm-up games out at Lincoln, some winter training squad one-dayers to keep the loads up."
It is easier said than done, though, to retain the sunny attitude when you know your chances are not as frequent as you want them to be. "It's never easy but it is one of those things that we have such a strong bowling group," Henry said. "It is a good position for us to be in, you just always have to prepare to play and focus on what the team needs and what your role is going to be so if you do get called in you can do what we need to get done."
Henry was full of praise for Patel too, who took the wickets of a set Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma. "It is a tough ask coming in from England and only having a couple of days to prepare," Henry said. "He's obviously got a lot of experience. He brought a lot of energy in the field and experience and confidence. I thought the way he played today was exceptional, the way both spinners played in tandem. They showed a lot of control and created pressure through those tough periods where it was really hot and important we could control that run rate because we had to keep that squeeze on."
While Rahane felt this was a two-paced pitch and that 300 was a good score on it especially considering a Williamson-less New Zealand might have to bat last. Henry said his batsmen were capable of taking the game deep, just as the bowlers did. "We have a great batting line-up and obviously it is a shame not to have Kane there but I know our batsmen will [apply themselves]," he said. "It is going to be a tough day with the heat and things like that. We just have to keep playing the long game and apply it as best we can."
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo