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The Report by Devashish Fuloria
February 6, 2014
New Zealand 329 for 4 (McCullum 143*, Williamson 113) v India
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
When MS Dhoni won his sixth consecutive toss of the tour, in the first Test in Auckland, he smiled sheepishly at his good fortune on an overcast morning. By the end of the first day, though, the smile had disappeared and his greying beard took prominence because India had endured a forgettable day. Kane Williamson and Brendon McCullum scored aggressive hundreds during a rapid double-century stand for the fourth wicket, consigning New Zealand's top-order stumble to a distant memory.
More than the volume of runs, the manner in which they were scored was remarkable. On a grassy drop-in pitch at Eden Park, India's bowlers applied pressure in the first session and New Zealand lost three wickets for 54 runs before lunch. After the break, though, the stirring riposte from Williamson and McCullum changed everything. They had got together with the score on 30 for 3 in the 18th over and added 221 in 51 overs.
Williamson and McCullum launched a counterattack and picked up runs in similar regions but by employing entirely different methods. For every silken Williamson straight drive, McCullum played a powerful punch; for every neat back-foot push through cover from Williamson, McCullum cut violently; for every controlled pull from Williamson, McCullum unleashed full-blooded slaps. In between, there were urgently-run singles as they took on tiring fielders.
Williamson was the enforcer early on, using his range of shots to manoeuver the ball into gaps on both sides of the field. Zaheer Khan was driven to the straight boundary, Ravindra Jadeja was lofted towards the sightscreen and Mohammed Shami was punched stylishly through the off side. Williamson, the leading run-scorer in the ODI series, had brought his form to the longer format.
The lack of pace from India's bowlers helped McCullum too, as he used his quick hands to punish anything marginally short. And there was plenty of friendly short bowling from India. One such delivery from Ishant caught the top edge of McCullum's bat and sailed over the wicketkeeper to bring up the half-century of the partnership, off 73 balls. Another top edge gave Williamson the six that took him to his sixth consecutive half-century against India. They may have been top-edges but the deliveries were worse, and Eden Park's straight boundaries were short.
They then unfurled a flurry of straight drives to bring up the century stand. McCullum was the first to reach a hundred, off 135 balls, with a powerful drive over long-on off Jadeja. Two overs later, Williamson completed his majestic hundred - his fifth in Tests - with an inside out drive off the spinner. He was finally dismissed in the 69th over, edging an innocuous Zaheer delivery down the leg side to Dhoni. Corey Anderson, the new batsman, survived nervous moments early on and ensured New Zealand ended the day without any further damage.
The morning, however, could not have been more different. Under gloomy skies, Ishant sparked India's attack to life, taking two key wickets, and keeping New Zealand quiet. He accounted for Hamish Rutherford in his first over, the batsmen playing away from the body and falling to a sharp diving catch from Ajinkya Rahane at gully, and then dismissed Ross Taylor via another sharp catch, by Jadeja at short mid-off.
India, however, were left to rue a missed chance at a crucial moment. With New Zealand seeking a way out from their troubled start, Williamson was dropped at first slip by M Vijay off Shami. He went on to score 81 more. Shikhar Dhawan had also dropped Peter Fulton early on in the innings and misjudged a top-edge off McCullum later in the day.
Ishant, after bowling his first six overs for eight runs, failed to control the run flow, while Jadeja, Zaheer and Shami remained profligate throughout the McCullum-Williamson stand. The bowling and fielding summed up India's day.
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