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Sidharth Monga in Napier
March 27, 2009
It's funny what runs on board can do. It may not have been comprehensive, but there was a reversal of roles here in Napier. It was India who dropped on to the defensive too early, spilled the catches and struggled to stay alert.
Jesse Ryder continued to bat like a dream, Brendon McCullum plundered when India were down, and Daniel Vettori put on aggressive fields and snuck out crucial wickets at the end of the day. Vettori the bowler and Vettori the captain were completely different from what we witnessed in Hamilton.
He brought himself on first-change in the ninth over. After a characteristic charge from Virender Sehwag, who hit him for a six first ball, Vettori bowled the next one slower. Sehwag was late into the shot, but was also drawn into it. And when another move worked for Vettori, with Jeetan Patel getting Gautam Gambhir in his first over, New Zealand were on an all-out attack for the first time on this tour.
Never before on this tour had their batsmen delivered so dominantly. Vettori has been quite a stranger to this feeling. This is only the third time New Zealand have scored 600 in their history but, more importantly, only the third time they have gone past 400 in 18 matches under his captaincy.
After a remarkable comeback from 23 for 3 on the first day, they ground out India's fielders today thanks to Ryder's hunger and McCullum's aggression. Ryder, in particular, went from strength to strength, getting his maiden double-hundred, and frustrated the bowlers with a chanceless innings, as opposed to Ross Taylor's chancy knock yesterday.
"I can't ask for anything more at this stage of my career," Ryder, always a man of few words, said. "It has been quite sensational for me. Everything seems to be working for me."
For McCullum, though, not everything had been working. Even as he has continued maturing as a limited-overs batsman, his Test batting has had a lot of room for improvement. His only centuries have come against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, the last one in 2005. So, from a stage where he could have become an important middle-order batsman for New Zealand, he has found himself not being entrusted with a job higher than No. 7. He couldn't have argued against that.
"It has been so long between hundreds. There were some 90s and 80s in between. No disrespect to Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, but to get one against a top-quality side like India means a lot," McCullum said.
"It has been a long time coming. There was a bit of emotion there as well when I got to three figures. It has been far too long between centuries for my liking. It is nice as well to get it against a side as good as India. It was a good time to bat."
What will also please New Zealand is the timing of this combined effort from the three most exciting batsmen in the team: they were in danger of being completely outclassed in a home series. Three days ago, Vettori spoke about how the New Zealand public deserved to see the team fight, no matter if they win or lose. After first two days of the Napier Test, the public won't be complaining.
Plays of the day from the CLT20 match between Dolphins and Lahore Lions in Bangalore
Plays of the day from Lahore Lions' last league match against Perth Scorchers