'Dhoni's counterattack hurt us' - Watling
New Zealand took a risk when they prepared a grassy pitch at the Basin Reserve. The ploy could have backfired if they were put in to bat, and that is what happened.
India racked up 438 with the pitch becoming better for batting on day two after New Zealand were dismissed for 192 on day one. BJ Watling said that a couple of strikes at crucial stages would have meant a much smaller deficit for the hosts, but also credited the Indian batsmen, particularly MS Dhoni for his aggressive half-century.
"It is obviously not ideal. We got ourselves into situations where if we had taken another wicket or two, we could have been chasing 100 or a 150," Watling said. "Obviously, it is a disappointing result in the end but we have still got three days to grind it out here and the track has definitely looked a lot better to bat on today. It wasn't swinging or seaming as much as it did on day one."
Watling felt New Zealand had done alright and even come back strongly with the ball at one point, but the hosts had also let India get away in the end. India fell from 141 for 2 to 165 for 5, before MS Dhoni's counterattacking 68 and a partnership of 120 with Ajinkya Rahane pulled them in front, something Watling felt made the difference.
"We went through patches. We didn't start too well and then we pulled it back nicely at times and asked a lot of questions. They had a couple of counterattacks at us and we didn't quite set it up as well as we would like to but all in all, I think we bowled reasonably well and we didn't quite get the rewards in the end.
"Credit must go their batters. Dhawan obviously played really well at the top and got them off to a good start and Rahane's hundred was pretty good. He played very well. But Dhoni's counterattack hurt us and that partnership was probably the difference between an ok day and a good day for them. If we had taken a wicket there, we could have been right in the hunt."
New Zealand had also been taken by surprise by a counter-attack from Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja in the first Test in Auckland before closing out the game by 40 runs. Watling said New Zealand knew a repeat could be on the cards
"We knew when Jadeja came out, he was definitely going to play his shots. For us, it was about hitting the right areas and we got him reasonably quickly. Dhoni again played really well. He played and missed a few times, things could be a little bit different but we knew that he was going to come at us hard and he obviously soaked it up before that new ball. But we were prepared for them coming at us."
Both Watling and Rahane said the pitch had improved for the batsmen, although there was still something in it for the bowlers. Watling acknowledged the enormity of the task facing New Zealand with three days to go, but said there was still a "good attitude" in the dressing room.
"It's going to be a huge challenge," Watling said. "We are going to have to bat a long time here to get ourselves back in the game. (Ishant) Sharma is bowling really well, so is Shami and Zaheer is an experienced bowler and he will hit some good areas too, so we got to soak it up in the morning for an hour and then bat for a long time.
"But I don't think there are too many demons in the wicket at the moment, it should be at its best tomorrow. Day one it was pretty green and doing a bit. Today, there was still enough in it for the bowlers but it has browned off and looks a pretty decent batting track now.
"There is still good attitude in the shed. The boys ran in hard today and bowled well and we appreciated their effort. Now it is the job of the batters to try and grind out as many runs as we can and bat for a long time. We know what's ahead of us and now it's time to step up and try and fight back and push back."
Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo