September 28, 2003

Chopra and Yuvraj grind New Zealand bowling

The Wisden Bulletin by Wisden CricInfo staff

Close of play Board President's XI 227 for 1 (Chopra 103*, Yuvraj 80)

After two wet days at Visakhapatnam, New Zealand finally got a shot at the batting line-up of the Board President's XI, but it did them little good. Their bowlers had to toil on a track that offered little by way of assistance, and the Board President's XI reached 227 for 1 by the close of play on the final day.

Wet conditions threatened to doom play again, but the sun came out, and play began at 10.45am. The Board President's XI resumed from 23 for 0 - where they had left off two days before - but Virender Sehwag, due to an unspecified illness, retired hurt, bringing Shiv Sunder Das to the crease instead.

Das could not have been more antithetical to the strokeplay that Sehwag's presence would no doubt have provided to the spectators. Both Das and Chopra looked very content to just get behind the line of the ball and push it away, and only 25 runs were added in the 10 overs bowled before lunch. Both were no doubt aware that the opening positions in the national team were still in a state of flux, which only added to their caution.

Of the two, it must be said that Chopra won the contest. Das fell due to a momentary lapse of concentration just after lunch, tickling a ball from Ian Butler down the legside for Robbie Hart to take a good catch tumbling to his left (61 for 1).

But that was all the joy New Zealand's bowlers got for some time to come. Paul Wiseman and Daniel Vettori, both of whom will be doing a lot of bowling in the Test series ahead, wheeled away from either end, but they could get little purchase from the surface. Wiseman bowled accurately during the second session, not allowing the batsmen to come onto the front foot. Vettori, however, was erratic in his length; when he was too full, and Yuvraj drove him through the covers, and when he sent down a long-hop just before tea, Yuvraj pulled the ball over the midwicket fence for six.

Yuvraj - who has made clear his intentions to break into Test reckoning - livened up a slow session with his strokeplay, and had almost caught up with Chopra when the Board President's XI went in for tea at 105 for 1.

After the break, however, Yuvraj's attitude seemed to rub off on Chopra. Using his feet well against the spinners, he essayed some sparkling drives and hits over the infield. Yuvraj continued in his belligerent vein, sweeping both spinners mercilessly and striking Vettori for yet another six, this time over long on.

Play continued beyond the allotted overs for the day to enable Chopra, who had batted patiently throughout the day, to get to his century, which he duly did with nine overs remaining. Putting away a flighted Wiseman delivery to square leg, Chopra reached his hundred off 263 balls, having struck six fours in his innings. He was named Man of the Match, of course, and he still has another opportunity to make the selectors sit up - when he pads up for India A at Rajkot.

Stephen Fleming would have hoped for more from the tour opener; none of his batsmen got to the crease, and his bowlers made no impact on the line-up of the Board President's XI. But New Zealand still have one more tour game - at Rajkot from October 2-4 - to get into battle mode before the first Test at Ahmedabad.

Day 2 Bulletin