New Zealand v India, 2nd Test, Wellington February 13, 2014

New Zealand's green gamble

On the surface, a seamer's paradise looks like the way to go against India, but with a few struggling batsmen in the team, a backfire cannot be ruled out
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New Zealand have rolled the dice. They wanted a green pitch, and a green pitch they have got at the Basin Reserve. They have left out the legspinner, and are playing three specialist fast bowlers and two seam-bowling allrounders. Brendon McCullum is an aggressive captain. He wants to go for 2-0, and he thinks the best way to go after this Indian team is through an all-pace attack on a grassy surface with the ball expected to seam, and also swing on an open ground.

Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Neil Wagner have had a terrific home summer, having been denied only by rain and Darren Bravo in Dunedin in four Tests against West Indies and India. Jimmy Neesham and Corey Anderson are more than capable change bowlers. The ball swung around considerably, especially for Boult, in the previous Test at Basin Reserve, against West Indies, which lasted three days. McCullum says this pitch is greener and harder than the one for West Indies, and expects it to have pace, bounce and seam.

The young group of Indian batsmen could possibly face their toughest examination so far on overseas soil, going by the composition of the opposition attack and the conditions. You would be wary of going into a Test on such a surface as a visiting side that has been winless in six games on this tour. Then again, wouldn't you be wary if your batsmen have made 105 in their previous innings, like New Zealand did in Auckland? Ross Taylor made 41 out of those 105 in that madcap second innings at Eden Park. He is at home in Napier, expecting his second child, and New Zealand are fielding a debutant batsman instead at No. 4.

New Zealand's openers have had their spots in the side questioned even before this series began. Those questions became louder after the first Test. Peter Fulton made 13 and 5 at Eden Park, Hamish Rutherford 6 and a golden duck. Both could possibly be playing for their places at the Basin. Not exactly the frame of mind you want your openers to be in on such a pitch.

McCullum is coming off a game-changing double hundred in the first Test, but his style of batting will always involve risk against the moving ball. Same with Anderson's style. You can understand why New Zealand have a batsman as promising as Neesham coming down at No. 8, and not a fourth-specialist fast bowler.

Given McCullum's luck with the toss this tour - he has lost all six of them - he thinks New Zealand could well be batting next morning at the Basin. What gives him confidence is that New Zealand have been asked to do so three times this summer, twice by and once by India, and their first-innings scores have been 609, 441 and 503.

"It [toss] is likely to go against me," McCullum said. "Obviously we will look to have a bowl if we win the toss, but if we find ourselves batting, with Neesham at No. 8 as well, there is quite a bit of batting. We found ourselves in some precarious positions having to bat first so far in the summer, and we have come through those tests pretty well. Have found ourselves batting first on seamer-friendly wickets, something that we have had to overcome and we have done it really well so far.

"So getting big first-innings totals, and that allows us to obviously dictate the pace of the game and how we want to attack the opposition. It is going to be a challenge if we find ourselves batting first tomorrow. But we think we have had some success doing it and we should not be overawed by it, albeit it is going to be a tough proposition. We have one more big effort if we do find ourselves batting first on this wicket to make sure we get a competitive total in that first innings."

McCullum's confidence is not misplaced, but there is also no doubting that this is a double-edged sword for New Zealand. They are sitting pretty with a 1-0 lead in a two-Test contest, and in trying to go flat out for 2-0, they are also giving the Indians a chance to square the series.

Not that there is any chance of that happening if India bowl the way they did in the first innings at Eden Park. However, they went the other extreme in the second. MS Dhoni said he had not seen such a performance from his bowlers in the past three-four years. Zaheer Khan went even further, saying the last similar collective display he could recall was in 2002.

You would normally expect something in between. A normal showing from the Indian seam attack will be where they release the ball, pitch it with discipline and expect some help from the pitch. Normal could work at the Basin. Dhoni said after Auckland that he preferred green pitches for his quick bowlers away from home, even if that made it challenging for his batsmen. The dice has been rolled by the hosts. Which way will it turn?

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Jaykumar18 on February 14, 2014, 10:02 GMT

    @Abhishek_Purohit: Any chance you gonna help me check the stocks mate? You got the nail on the head!

  • on February 14, 2014, 5:54 GMT

    @Nampally: somehow I get the feeling that umps only check for marginal no balls when a batsman is out.

  • thozar on February 14, 2014, 1:54 GMT

    To people deriding our bowling attack, a bowler of the class of Umesh doesn't get a look in. That would tell everyone how good our 1st choice bowlers are. Like everyone else, I had my doubts on Ishant but he has quashed them and how. Mark my words, in the next 1 year, India will be #1 in tests and ODIs.

  • thozar on February 14, 2014, 1:51 GMT

    @Tanvir Ahmad, lol at the "Pak is a top 3 team" comment. Pak were outclassed by Zimbabwe and you call them a top 3 team? India is clearly only behind SA in tests and equal #1 with Austraila in ODIs. We have had some poor results of late but remember they are all away from home. We thrashed Australia 4-0. Australia beat England 5-0 but that was a hopelessly poor English side. Let us see how they do in SA but India will paste any team, incl SA, at home right now and compete well against any team away. We almost beat SA in SA while you were thrashed. What do you mean "mediocre" attack? Did you see the way young Shami and Ishant are bowling? Along with the experienced Zaheer, we have a top bowling attack now. Do you even have one batsman of the class of Pujara or Kohli? And in ODIs, we won the Champions Trophy in England. What did Pakistan win? Right now, SA, India, and Oz are the top 3 teams, the next level has England, NZ, and Pakistan. SL and WI form the bottom tier.

  • Danovsky on February 13, 2014, 20:52 GMT

    Ross Taylor at home in Napier? Every other article I have read says he is at home in Hamilton

  • SRAM20 on February 13, 2014, 17:15 GMT

    Have a feeling that India are going to win at the Basin Reserve. Giving India a green pitch is no more a tactic to bring them down. Indian bowlers are very dangerous when they are given helpful track. And India have the batting (Pujara, Kohli, Rahane) to counter the conditions and the opposition. And India feeds on good bowling performances. If the bowlers do well, the batsmen get inspired and fight well too...

    Hope India take a great crack at NZ and win to end the tour!

  • gladiatorgannicus on February 13, 2014, 15:19 GMT

    NZ is a very good team and also they are the one in form now.Ind will have to play at their best.pitch is green and this is how it should be when u play in NZ,Aus,SA,Eng.it is good at the same time Ind too should produce an equal no of pitches green as well as an equal no that turn and spin.thats how cric will remain interestin. by the way match is bw Ind and NZ.cant fathom why other teams are so bothered when they are not even playin.u got some points 2 make go ahead and make but what is their team doin here??

  • SaraJahanSeAchha on February 13, 2014, 15:04 GMT

    Although an Indian cricket fan, kudos to NZ for all round performance both in ODIs and Tests. Based on their play they truly don't deserve to be classified as last in ODIs or Tests. They have good battery of fast bowlers, sound technique batsman. Would love to see them challenge Australia and SA.

  • on February 13, 2014, 15:02 GMT

    Ambati Raydu - Manoj Tiwary W Saha - D.Karthik Ishant Sharma - Varun Aron The selection should be like above atleast for next tour. Raydu in test in a seaming conditions is a joke.

  • on February 13, 2014, 14:57 GMT

    Unlike the disciplined SA bowling attack. Southee, Bolt, Wagner these guys bowl lot of loose deliverers. I am really worried about the team selection. Dhoni should go with 4 pacers outside India. He cannot play Jadeja in NZ anymore. Ishant should sit for One match, Given the pace of Varon and Ishwar along with experience of Zaheer and swing of Shami India would easily restrict NZ below 250. This would ultimately ease the pressure of indian top order batsman. Dhoni think to play with same player everywhere, that is highly impossible in modern day cricket. Need to change players considering the pitch and team. This will be the future of test cricket. Every team knows if they attack the spinners then the opponents will be on back foot. Need to learn from Virat and Aussies.

  • Jaykumar18 on February 14, 2014, 10:02 GMT

    @Abhishek_Purohit: Any chance you gonna help me check the stocks mate? You got the nail on the head!

  • on February 14, 2014, 5:54 GMT

    @Nampally: somehow I get the feeling that umps only check for marginal no balls when a batsman is out.

  • thozar on February 14, 2014, 1:54 GMT

    To people deriding our bowling attack, a bowler of the class of Umesh doesn't get a look in. That would tell everyone how good our 1st choice bowlers are. Like everyone else, I had my doubts on Ishant but he has quashed them and how. Mark my words, in the next 1 year, India will be #1 in tests and ODIs.

  • thozar on February 14, 2014, 1:51 GMT

    @Tanvir Ahmad, lol at the "Pak is a top 3 team" comment. Pak were outclassed by Zimbabwe and you call them a top 3 team? India is clearly only behind SA in tests and equal #1 with Austraila in ODIs. We have had some poor results of late but remember they are all away from home. We thrashed Australia 4-0. Australia beat England 5-0 but that was a hopelessly poor English side. Let us see how they do in SA but India will paste any team, incl SA, at home right now and compete well against any team away. We almost beat SA in SA while you were thrashed. What do you mean "mediocre" attack? Did you see the way young Shami and Ishant are bowling? Along with the experienced Zaheer, we have a top bowling attack now. Do you even have one batsman of the class of Pujara or Kohli? And in ODIs, we won the Champions Trophy in England. What did Pakistan win? Right now, SA, India, and Oz are the top 3 teams, the next level has England, NZ, and Pakistan. SL and WI form the bottom tier.

  • Danovsky on February 13, 2014, 20:52 GMT

    Ross Taylor at home in Napier? Every other article I have read says he is at home in Hamilton

  • SRAM20 on February 13, 2014, 17:15 GMT

    Have a feeling that India are going to win at the Basin Reserve. Giving India a green pitch is no more a tactic to bring them down. Indian bowlers are very dangerous when they are given helpful track. And India have the batting (Pujara, Kohli, Rahane) to counter the conditions and the opposition. And India feeds on good bowling performances. If the bowlers do well, the batsmen get inspired and fight well too...

    Hope India take a great crack at NZ and win to end the tour!

  • gladiatorgannicus on February 13, 2014, 15:19 GMT

    NZ is a very good team and also they are the one in form now.Ind will have to play at their best.pitch is green and this is how it should be when u play in NZ,Aus,SA,Eng.it is good at the same time Ind too should produce an equal no of pitches green as well as an equal no that turn and spin.thats how cric will remain interestin. by the way match is bw Ind and NZ.cant fathom why other teams are so bothered when they are not even playin.u got some points 2 make go ahead and make but what is their team doin here??

  • SaraJahanSeAchha on February 13, 2014, 15:04 GMT

    Although an Indian cricket fan, kudos to NZ for all round performance both in ODIs and Tests. Based on their play they truly don't deserve to be classified as last in ODIs or Tests. They have good battery of fast bowlers, sound technique batsman. Would love to see them challenge Australia and SA.

  • on February 13, 2014, 15:02 GMT

    Ambati Raydu - Manoj Tiwary W Saha - D.Karthik Ishant Sharma - Varun Aron The selection should be like above atleast for next tour. Raydu in test in a seaming conditions is a joke.

  • on February 13, 2014, 14:57 GMT

    Unlike the disciplined SA bowling attack. Southee, Bolt, Wagner these guys bowl lot of loose deliverers. I am really worried about the team selection. Dhoni should go with 4 pacers outside India. He cannot play Jadeja in NZ anymore. Ishant should sit for One match, Given the pace of Varon and Ishwar along with experience of Zaheer and swing of Shami India would easily restrict NZ below 250. This would ultimately ease the pressure of indian top order batsman. Dhoni think to play with same player everywhere, that is highly impossible in modern day cricket. Need to change players considering the pitch and team. This will be the future of test cricket. Every team knows if they attack the spinners then the opponents will be on back foot. Need to learn from Virat and Aussies.

  • on February 13, 2014, 14:27 GMT

    For the first time in AGES as a New Zealand fan, I can actually see a playing roster forming of team members who are working together. We have a solid group of seamers and while it is a youthful side, there is experience in the batting department and players like Kane Williamson will surely one day feature as some of the best the world has on offer.

    I thought India was horrible in the ODIs. Their bowling was pathetic. But at Eden Park what we saw was an NZ batting line up that really went above and beyond, and then an Indian bowling attack that finally played to its potential and skittled NZ.

    Now - the outcome of this test hangs in the balance. Pakistan has nothing to do with it. Go Latham.

  • Nampally on February 13, 2014, 14:20 GMT

    I like to challenge India & Dhoni to reproduce the Bowling & Fielding performance of the Second innings of the First test match. If they do, India will walk away with an easy win. Even in that innings with NZ 25 for 5, if India had a 4th pace bowler, they had a strong chance of bundling NZ for <50 runs. Shami was tiring after his 10 over bowling stretch. He is the main wkt. taker for India. On this green wkt. India definitely needs the 4th seamer & for once Dhoni gives up his irrationality & Bizarre selection. Indian top 5 batsmen should be told to be patient & Disciplined in leaving the constant barrage of balls outside the off stump & short pitched balls well alone. The 3 NZ LH seamers bowl across the body ending up nearly 2 feet outside the off stump. Also the umpires need to be more vigilant in watching the no balls, specially those cutting the return crease. India need to play with intensity & confidence of a #2 ranked Test side. Losing mentality is when you play without grit!

  • anumsd on February 13, 2014, 14:13 GMT

    If the indian seamers hit the right length the they will make merry.I believe they roll NZ out for less than 100 on that pitch.The gritt of Pujara,Rahane and Kohli's class will be enough for Ind to post a score around 250-280

  • SaraJahanSeAchha on February 13, 2014, 12:46 GMT

    Interesting to see. Indian seam bowling attack is the best on seaming pitches. Agreed that Indian batting might struggle, but NZ is not best either. Once again look at what happened in NZ second innings. Had the two sitter catches (or at least one) not been dropped NZ in first innings might have been all out under 150 or 200. If NZ thinks green and seaming pitch will help their bowlers, it common sense that it will help Indian bowlers as well. India will have to bring in Umesh Yadav with 4 fast blowers and a spinner in Jadeja.

  • Smack-DAT on February 13, 2014, 10:49 GMT

    Tanvir Ahmad: PAK won 4 test in AUS,the last time in 1995,when you might be in your nappies, and IND has won 5 tests, and we have beaten the AUS team at their prime both in home and away. PAK won two tests in SA so is IND, so its even here and atleast we were not whitewashed, and hope you remember 43 all out!! IND has won 5 test in WI so is PAK and remember PAK never won any Series in WI till date, so my friend what is the use of such a 'Heavy Weight' bowling. May be for putting the front foot out of pooping crease!!

  • on February 13, 2014, 10:40 GMT

    Pakistan would do even worse. The batting line up would be lucky to make 200 against the best bowling line up going. NZ are awesome.

  • on February 13, 2014, 10:38 GMT

    2-0 over in three days. This Indian team is no where near as good as NZ.

  • on February 13, 2014, 10:04 GMT

    ilovetests

    Pak team would smash this Kiwi side any day of the weak in any conditions due to their world class bowling line up. The Kiwi batters wouldnt score 200 against Pak bowlers let alone 500+. Check out stats the last time Pak toured NZ

  • on February 13, 2014, 9:58 GMT

    @ilovetests

    Yes Pak lost a test to Zimbabwe but this was due to lack of motivation which can happen when a strong team plays a weaker one. Look at Bangladesh drawing a test with SL and nearly beating them in the T20. We all know the gulf in class between SL and BANG and same with Pak and ZIM. But I think you forget that Pakistan responded well in UAE by beating SA and drawing the series and then the remarkable chase against SL. Dont foget these are considered away series and not HOME series. I hope you were impressed with Pak also becoming first Asian team to win ODI series in SA and lets not even compare how India are doing recently against SA and NZ in Tests and ODI

  • ilovetests on February 13, 2014, 9:40 GMT

    @Tanvir Ahmad - Pakistan lost to Zimbabwe last year - hardly a top 3 side!

    Really looking forward to this match and seeing how young Latham goes. I have fond memories of watching his father Rod with bat (and ball) in hand. There have certainly been plenty of 'sons of' in the team in recent years - Redmond, Rutherford, Bracewell etc. but I think Latham might be the best of the lot.

    Also hoping that Southee can get his average under 30 - he is quite some bowler now.

  • on February 13, 2014, 9:20 GMT

    "Not that there is any chance of that happening if India bowl the way they did in the first innings at Eden Park"

    Not sure what this writer is on about, does he really think NZ are scared to face a mediocre Indian bowling line up on a Green Top? Yes NZ were bowled out for 105 in the 2nd innings but thats because they had a cushion of a 300 run lead and could afford some complacency.

    This is the right approach and a very aggressive one unlike Dhnonis defensive captaincy. I expect NZ to win this match much easily than the 1st and I guess BCCI will be even more keen to ensure India tours as less as possible.

    What a joke to be part of a so called Big 3, that should be based on merit and not financial power. The top 3 teams overall in terms of current performance are AUS, SA and PAK without any doubt

  • weasel_zapper on February 13, 2014, 8:47 GMT

    Even though it was pretty green it didn't really seam around heaps in the game vs WI. Perhaps some of that could go down to their inability to put it in the right places though. We routed them on the back of the swing bowling.

    Indie were so much better in the second half of the Auckland test and I reckon they'll bring that intensity and belief to Wellington, we're going to have to be better too, espeically without Taylor.

    Some of those big first innings scores have come on the back of some missed chances by the opposition (Williamson dropped last test, Taylor dropped on 0 in Wellington) Against better teams we wouldn't be given those second chances.

    Good call bringing in another seamer, and I guess Neesham was a good option to strengthen the batting too with Taylor out. The openers are certainly on notice now with Latham in the team.

    Looking forward to another cracker!

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  • weasel_zapper on February 13, 2014, 8:47 GMT

    Even though it was pretty green it didn't really seam around heaps in the game vs WI. Perhaps some of that could go down to their inability to put it in the right places though. We routed them on the back of the swing bowling.

    Indie were so much better in the second half of the Auckland test and I reckon they'll bring that intensity and belief to Wellington, we're going to have to be better too, espeically without Taylor.

    Some of those big first innings scores have come on the back of some missed chances by the opposition (Williamson dropped last test, Taylor dropped on 0 in Wellington) Against better teams we wouldn't be given those second chances.

    Good call bringing in another seamer, and I guess Neesham was a good option to strengthen the batting too with Taylor out. The openers are certainly on notice now with Latham in the team.

    Looking forward to another cracker!

  • on February 13, 2014, 9:20 GMT

    "Not that there is any chance of that happening if India bowl the way they did in the first innings at Eden Park"

    Not sure what this writer is on about, does he really think NZ are scared to face a mediocre Indian bowling line up on a Green Top? Yes NZ were bowled out for 105 in the 2nd innings but thats because they had a cushion of a 300 run lead and could afford some complacency.

    This is the right approach and a very aggressive one unlike Dhnonis defensive captaincy. I expect NZ to win this match much easily than the 1st and I guess BCCI will be even more keen to ensure India tours as less as possible.

    What a joke to be part of a so called Big 3, that should be based on merit and not financial power. The top 3 teams overall in terms of current performance are AUS, SA and PAK without any doubt

  • ilovetests on February 13, 2014, 9:40 GMT

    @Tanvir Ahmad - Pakistan lost to Zimbabwe last year - hardly a top 3 side!

    Really looking forward to this match and seeing how young Latham goes. I have fond memories of watching his father Rod with bat (and ball) in hand. There have certainly been plenty of 'sons of' in the team in recent years - Redmond, Rutherford, Bracewell etc. but I think Latham might be the best of the lot.

    Also hoping that Southee can get his average under 30 - he is quite some bowler now.

  • on February 13, 2014, 9:58 GMT

    @ilovetests

    Yes Pak lost a test to Zimbabwe but this was due to lack of motivation which can happen when a strong team plays a weaker one. Look at Bangladesh drawing a test with SL and nearly beating them in the T20. We all know the gulf in class between SL and BANG and same with Pak and ZIM. But I think you forget that Pakistan responded well in UAE by beating SA and drawing the series and then the remarkable chase against SL. Dont foget these are considered away series and not HOME series. I hope you were impressed with Pak also becoming first Asian team to win ODI series in SA and lets not even compare how India are doing recently against SA and NZ in Tests and ODI

  • on February 13, 2014, 10:04 GMT

    ilovetests

    Pak team would smash this Kiwi side any day of the weak in any conditions due to their world class bowling line up. The Kiwi batters wouldnt score 200 against Pak bowlers let alone 500+. Check out stats the last time Pak toured NZ

  • on February 13, 2014, 10:38 GMT

    2-0 over in three days. This Indian team is no where near as good as NZ.

  • on February 13, 2014, 10:40 GMT

    Pakistan would do even worse. The batting line up would be lucky to make 200 against the best bowling line up going. NZ are awesome.

  • Smack-DAT on February 13, 2014, 10:49 GMT

    Tanvir Ahmad: PAK won 4 test in AUS,the last time in 1995,when you might be in your nappies, and IND has won 5 tests, and we have beaten the AUS team at their prime both in home and away. PAK won two tests in SA so is IND, so its even here and atleast we were not whitewashed, and hope you remember 43 all out!! IND has won 5 test in WI so is PAK and remember PAK never won any Series in WI till date, so my friend what is the use of such a 'Heavy Weight' bowling. May be for putting the front foot out of pooping crease!!

  • SaraJahanSeAchha on February 13, 2014, 12:46 GMT

    Interesting to see. Indian seam bowling attack is the best on seaming pitches. Agreed that Indian batting might struggle, but NZ is not best either. Once again look at what happened in NZ second innings. Had the two sitter catches (or at least one) not been dropped NZ in first innings might have been all out under 150 or 200. If NZ thinks green and seaming pitch will help their bowlers, it common sense that it will help Indian bowlers as well. India will have to bring in Umesh Yadav with 4 fast blowers and a spinner in Jadeja.

  • anumsd on February 13, 2014, 14:13 GMT

    If the indian seamers hit the right length the they will make merry.I believe they roll NZ out for less than 100 on that pitch.The gritt of Pujara,Rahane and Kohli's class will be enough for Ind to post a score around 250-280