New Zealand v India, 1st Test, Auckland, 1st day February 6, 2014

Post-lunch slack costs India

The format may have changed, but once again, a poor bowling display has already left the Indian batsmen with plenty to do

Crowe: Surprised Jadeja was considered over Ashwin

Ishant Sharma protested vehemently to the contrary, but by the end of the first day's play it seemed clear that India had suffered a post-lunch dip in intensity that gave New Zealand the early running. Having reduced New Zealand to 30 for 3 after winning the toss under overcast skies, India watched on as Kane Williamson and Brendon McCullum first stabilised the innings and then gave it momentum.

Asked whether India's intensity had dipped after lunch, Ishant's reply was emphatic - though unconvincing. "I don't think so. You can see that we did not let their run-rate get high at any point," he said. "It was always under control. Even as the wicket got flat and the ball got old, we kept bowling in the right areas. What is in our hand is that when the wicket goes flat, you have to be patient and see how to create pressure."

Williamson and McCullum put up 221 in 51 overs, a scoring-rate close to four-and-a-half an over. Most of those runs came after lunch, when both Williamson and Ishant said the pitch eased out. India probably think allowing two opposition batsmen to score at that rate on a flattening surface is acceptable.

The visitors also put down some catches, including that of Williamson's on 32. They kept bowling short and conceded boundaries to cuts, pulls and hooks, both top-edged and middled. All their three fast bowlers were down on their normal pace for most of the day. Their spinner, who was picked to keep a check on the run-rate, went for 81 runs in 20 overs. Their fielding suffered as well. Singles became doubles as the players ambled after strokes, expecting the ball to roll into the boundary. If all this does not point to a dip in intensity, nothing does.

To say that India let the momentum slip away is an understatement. It was wrenched away from them by two batsmen in flow, and the disappointing part was, India went too flat too soon in face of that fightback. Yes, the pitch eased out considerably after lunch. And at the toss, it was indeed a no-brainer to bowl, given the green below and grey above. But unless New Zealand have bowled on the pitch as well, the verdict on exactly how much bite it has lost, has to wait.

MS Dhoni had said his fast bowlers would have to run in as hard in their fourth spell as they did in their first in these conditions. But Zaheer Khan, the long-time leader of the attack, was found wanting even in his first spell. Zaheer's speed was in the early-to-mid 120s at the start, and no matter how canny or experienced a bowler you are, you cannot hope to worry teams consistently with that pace.

Maybe it would have all been completely different had Peter Fulton's catch been held off the first ball Zaheer bowled, or if few of his deliveries that beat the bat had taken the edge. That wasn't to be, though.

Unusually for Zaheer, he seemed unable to make a comeback. He's turned games so often for India after a luckless or even ordinary start. There wasn't reverse swing to be had on this thick outfield, but even allowing for that, Zaheer's lack of penetration was too glaring. He sent down 23 expensive overs in the day. What India wouldn't have given for just 15 sharp ones.

Mohammed Shami was unlucky to not break through at the start after roughing up the openers with some lifters. But he overdid the short ball, as did the other two quick bowlers. Those poor deliveries were asking to be hit, and New Zealand duly obliged, picking them for boundaries.

Ishant did not think India were too liberal with the bouncer. "I think we bowled in pretty good areas. They played good shots. We bowled enough bouncers and they kept on playing the pull over the top of the keeper and the slip cordon. You can't control all this." New Zealand took ten boundaries off pulls or hooks. Six of those were off the middle of the bat, four were top edges, and they also cut five short and wide ones for fours.

For once, you could sympathise with MS Dhoni for slowly removing a slip here, a gully there, and putting an extra man on the boundary. He tried to attack for as long as he could, but with the bowlers leaking so many runs, his hands were tied.

Even Ravindra Jadeja, who Dhoni relies so much on for containment, began with successive poor deliveries down the leg side. Jadeja's strength is his line but that was astray right from the start. He had a worse economy-rate than two of the fast bowlers.

India cannot even say that they were undercooked, as they often are, going into this game. Three of these four bowlers had been part of the one-dayers. Zaheer had a decent, albeit lone, workout in the warm-up match. The format may have changed, but India's bowlers have left the batsmen with the catch-up role to play yet again.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ESPN on February 7, 2014, 2:16 GMT

    Wow... Hey! Hold on! Indian batting fails, 'pitch is doing way too much' Indian bowling fails.- it's a flat pitch. :P

  • Ramesh on February 7, 2014, 0:19 GMT

    poor bowling can cost India this match..and possibly the series. will have to wait and see how Indian batsmen will play. NZ has shown their bowling capabilities already...

    so, beware carefully..otherwise, a loss looks inevitable..

  • andrews on February 6, 2014, 22:41 GMT

    You are maligning 3 good players there, top speed 55. 2 of them have already done enough to prove your ignorance. Every sign is that Williamson will join them.

  • Dummy4 on February 6, 2014, 21:59 GMT

    no.2 vs no.8 team.. my foot.

  • Ashok on February 6, 2014, 21:26 GMT

    There seems to be lack of communication on the squad selection. Can the Selectors justify Dhoni jeopardizing India playing consistently with the 3 Specialist Bowlers + I bowling all rounder? If Dhoni wants his own tactics & his own favourites in XI, why do we have a Squad with 5 players permanently benched? The strange point is after the Loss, Dhoni has a news conference justifying the Loss! He has blamed the lack of bowlers or their tardiness. Is it not a Captains job to reprimand the bowler when ever he falters in his line & length? Jadeja was the most expensive bowler with > 4 runs/over with Zero wkts. ZAK was the also >4 runs/over but he took 2 wkts. Bowling short & getting thrashed is crazy. ZAK & Shami over did it. Why doesn't one of the Selectors stay with the team & enforce some logic in XI selection. This will have some discipline over Dhoni who has lost every overseas Test series he captained thru' irrational XI. Best thing is to replace Dhoni as Captain.

  • Evan on February 6, 2014, 21:25 GMT

    My goodness! I thought our cousins across the ditch were one-eyed and unable to give credit where it was due when it came to cricket but a large portion of Indian journalists and fans seem to have the same myopic view when it comes to their team. The fact that they are currently being out played and out thought, as they have been throughout this tour, by a determined opposition seems to have escaped a vast number of you. I hope the New Zealand cricket team continue to perform as a collective and play for each other(something that India are not doing currently) to secure a test series win although it is indeed early days. I also hope that it is reported here that India have been outclassed by a team who just wanted it more and the comments posted concur with that truth. Bottle the arrogance please folks. It is unbecoming of you.

  • Cricket on February 6, 2014, 20:34 GMT

    Can't blame Dhoni if Vijay drops sitter catches. But nonetheless Dhoni has had his due in Tests as a consecutive loosing captain. It's time BCCI take tough decision and remove him of his Test captaincy. He does not perform well either in Tests in batting. What value is he bringing to the table for Tests. Only reason he has been retained as captain is due to his seniority. Virath has enough experience now to be selected as captain. Kapil was a captain at age 24 and so was Greame Smith of SA. Dhoni want's to be the captain in Tests because otherwise his slot is not guaranteed as a wicketkeeper.

  • Sanjiv on February 6, 2014, 20:19 GMT

    Agree @Manas123. I believe an Indian cricket team has no performance accountability framework. I have trawled through to pick up clues. It is unclear. Therefore, Team Dhoni and Team Fletcher have no performance anxieties in overseas tours at all. I believe Dhoni is fully financially secure, so does not need cricket to supply his daily bread. Fletcher ditto. Several of the other Indian players are financially secure and don't need cricket to supply their daily bread either. As fans, we can scream hoarse about their performance standard. Regrettably, we are at the mercy of each individual cricketer's personal work ethic and intrinsic work standard.

  • Dummy4 on February 6, 2014, 20:07 GMT

    1. Entire responsibility for match situation should be borne by Murali Vijay. 2. Need a modification to the ICC proposal to allow 2-tier system with relegation immunity for India only. This is fair because BCCI has the most money, and without money there would be no cricket. If India finishes last then team #3 is relegated; if India is #3 then #2 and #4 are both relegated; if India wins then all 3 other teams are relegated. This allows maximum opportunity for other nations to play India and get their 10% of the gate receipts (15% if the match is not in India).

  • Dummy4 on February 6, 2014, 20:05 GMT

    we can produce even 10 more Sachins but yet to find a single Akram

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