Relentless New Zealand ensure firm control
At stumps on the second day at McLean Park, the second Test between these two sides carried an ominously one-sided look. On a dodo-dead pitch, India were hammered to the tune of 619 for 9 - only the third time New Zealand have crossed 600 - after which they lost their openers to utterly irresponsible shots. The script was written by New Zealand on a lifeless track and the central characters were Jesse Ryder, with a maiden double-century, Brendon McCullum, with a stroke-filled ton of his own, and Daniel Vettori, who followed a half-century with two wickets before stumps.
As on day one, partnerships were again the secret of New Zealand's accomplishment on such a track. Ryder added a sedate 121 in the morning with James Franklin, then 62 with McCullum, after which McCullum and Vettori put on 128 to utterly flounder India. It all appeared a touch too easy for New Zealand, and India didn't seem to have a plan.
India had been frustrated in the first session, but what really flattened them was the interval between lunch and tea. After Ryder was bowled the delivery after raising an excellent double - the first since Stephen Fleming's 262 against South Africa in 2006 - McCullum piled the pain on a cumbersome India and continued an exemplary day's work for the hosts.
The sight of McCullum striding to the middle at 415 for 5 can demoralise the best of sides. Timing the ball with fluency from the start, he kept the tempo by cutting Munaf Patel for four, and then did the same to Harbhajan Singh. Hardly allowing himself time to soak in the magic of his 201, Ryder was bowled next ball attempting an expansive drive. It was truly a splendid innings and if India thought it was a window to break through, they were mistaken.
McCullum judged the pace - or complete lack of - of the pitch and played the field superbly. He waited against the three spinners used, playing primarily off the back foot, and his shuffled paddles also got him handy runs. He brought up his half-century with another aggressive cover-drive and continued to cut the ball into the gaps. McCullum negotiated his way easily from there on and the rest was a blur as he raised his century from 131 balls.
Vettori started off more circumspectly, content to defend and nudge the singles, but gradually he opened out too, essaying some deft late-cuts and soft-handed steers for four. The singles and doubles frustrated India and allowed New Zealand to creep toward 600. Vettori (55) and McCullum fell in relative succession - Ishant took his 50th Test wicket - and along came the declaration.
Having looked on as his new-ball pair failed to have any effect on India's openers, Vettori brought himself on in the ninth over. Two singles, a double, a dot and a disdainful six later, Vettori was swamped by ecstatic team-mates. In a reckless swipe reminiscent of his charge down the track to Stuart MacGill in Adelaide in 2003, Virender Sehwag reached out at a very wide delivery and nicked to McCullum. Gautam Gambhir survived an extremely tight run-out call on 10 - replays suggested a bail was not entirely off the groove - but fell in Jeetan Patel's first over. Vettori called on his spin partner 25 minutes before stumps and was rewarded when Gambhir needlessly chipped to mid-on. Ishant, the nightwatchman, survived 13 scoreless deliveries before Vettori claimed him with an arm ball. India were 78 for 3 and the pressure had told.
New Zealand finished the day as they had begun - in control. They were kept in the ascendancy during the morning by Ryder, who hardly broke a sweat, and Franklin, who fought out a dogged 52. Ryder, with all the assurance of a seasoned pro, slowly chipped away at India's esteem and spirits.
Ryder was very solid, if a tad more watchful. But stamina was not a problem for a player of his gait and he played with caution, content to wait for the occasional boundary. When they did come, they were ever so casual. Ryder drove a tired Munaf sumptuously through the covers for four, clipped Ishant to fine leg and dispatched Harbhajan over extra cover. He produced the shot of the morning session just before lunch - another gorgeous cover-drive that singed the grass and left a dent in Munaf's figures.
Franklin looked a lot more assured this morning, composed in technique and scored the majority of his runs down the ground. Like Ryder, he kept the score ticking with ease and as the bowlers tired he helped himself to anything off target. His run-out brought McCullum to the crease, and more hurting to India.
On a pancake pitch India's bowling was tired and toothless. Zaheer Khan tried hard but with little luck, an extremely disappointing Harbhajan and Yuvraj Singh posed no threat, while Munaf simple faded. Sehwag turned his arm over as well but was just clutching at straws. It was a long day for India, and they continue to look down the barrel of more misery.
Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo