Badani makes 127 as match meanders to a draw
New Zealand 375 for 7 dec (Richardson 128, Oram 101*, Munaf 3-83) and 68 for 4 (Vincent 28*) drew with India A 403 (Ramesh 110, Badani 127, Tuffey 3-70)
Hemang Badani's sizzling hundred and Robbie Hart's acrobatic wicketkeeping entertained the sparse yet vociferous crowd as the New Zealanders' tour game at Rajkot ended in a predictable draw.
But entertainment hardly looked on the cards when only 48 runs were eked out in the first session, due to the restrictive bowling of Darryl Tuffey and Jacob Oram, who dug the ball in and targeted the rib-cage persistently. Daniel Vettori blended guile with a teasing line, and the visitors were duly rewarded with the scalps of Murali Kartik and Rohan Gavaskar.
Deep Dasgupta, no doubt with some designs on the Indian opening slot, was excessively obdurate as he plodded his way to 21 off 105 balls. Badani, on the other hand, gave vent to his aggression after lunch, and once Dasgupta was dismissed, he looked to spank every ball.
The bowling started to take too predictable an approach in the second session, and Badani took full toll, peppering the midwicket fence with crisp pull shots. Vettori buckled in the face of this assault, and Badani further unveiled his repertoire by hitting two towering sixes and a few delectable reverse-sweeps.
New Zealand were not helped by their shoddy fielding; two easy catches off Badani went down, and the fielders looked jaded after lunch. There was, however, a refreshing exception in the form of Robbie Hart, who had an exceptional day behind the stumps. Hart stayed focussed through uneventful patches, displayed no shortcomings against pace or spin, and picked up four catches today, all of them outstanding.
Hart began by springing straight up to pluck, one-handed, the ball that kissed the edge of Kartik's bat. He then dived full-length to his left to hang on with his fingertips to a legside chance from Dasgupta.
Shortly after tea, Badani poked at a McMillan outswinger, and Hart collected another sharp catch to his left. He then capped a great day with the gloves with a lunging catch off Tuffey's bowling to dismiss RP Singh.
New Zealand batted for a little over an hour in the final session, losing four wickets as the game meandered towards a draw. Richardson looked to smash every ball and was caught off a miscued shot at mid-on off Kartik. Munaf Patel got Nathan Astle lbw for the second time in the match, and both Astle and Scott Styris will go into the first Test at Ahmedabad without any real batting under their belts.
With only four days to go for that first Test, the lack of penetration in his bowling will worry Stephen Fleming. The opposition batting, including the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, will be much stronger, and they will be sure to take advantage of unimaginative bowling and missed chances. New Zealand will have to devise alternate strategies and hope that the bowlers can sustain the pressure over long periods of play.