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At Wellington, December 26, 27, 28, 29, 30. New Zealand won by four wickets. Toss: India. Test debut: M. D. Bell.
It was just after Christmas, but India rather overdid the gifts. Too many of their wickets were easily taken, their bowlers' line was inconsistent and they put down several chances. It was only a valiant century from Azharuddin, and another more violent one from Tendulkar, that kept them on terms up till the final morning. The pitch, once it had lost its early freshness, was ideal; the balance between bat and ball was reflected in frequent changes of fortune, some dramatic.
India won the toss, but that soon proved no advantage. Delivering from close to the stumps, Doull kept an admirable line and used the wind to swing the ball menacingly. In 11 overs, India were 16 for four, all to Doull. After he took his sweater, batting became easier. The other bowlers could not match him, the pitch became less frisky, and India's finest batsmen, Tendulkar and Azharuddin, were together. It seemed a different game as they added 83 in 20 overs. But Doull was back in the afternoon and, without looking quite as deadly, picked up three more. Nash eventually broke Doull's monopoly, claiming Srinath to leave India 149 for eight. But in Prasad, Azharuddin at last found an ally and, patiently waiting for the bad ball, he completed his 21st Test century before running out of partners. Doull's final figures were seven for 65, the fourth best ever for New Zealand.
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India's total was a moderate 208, but New Zealand lost seven wickets catching up. Dravid, leaping at short leg, took a phenomenal catch to dismiss McMillan, but there were also several misses. Although the beneficiaries did not profit much, the extra time it took to finally dismiss them again added to the workload of India's limited attack. Nash and Vettori exploited their weariness to add 137, a New Zealand eighth-wicket record, batting until just before lunch on the third day, when Vettori was beaten in the air by Tendulkar. Nash was left undefeated after almost five hours.
India lost three wickets, two to wanton shots, clearing the arrears. But Tendulkar remained rampant, if not at his most fluent, reaching his hundred off 123 balls, and Azharuddin was quietly assured. Tendulkar, however, did not play himself in against the new ball after lunch, and was caught top-edging a cut. Azharuddin was unlucky to be given out caught off his pad, and New Zealand's final target was 213.
That did not look easy, considering that Wiseman had got one to turn and bounce to remove Ganguly on the fourth morning. Leg-spinner Kumble did take two wickets that evening and, at the close, India seemed the likely winners. New Zealand were 73 for four - effectively five as Astle had retired, his hand fractured by Srinath.
The night-watchman went to the fifth ball of the last day - but that was the nearest India got to winning. Their heads dropped as McMillan and Cairns settled. Careful but positive, they too added 137 and were two runs from victory when Cairns ladled what he intended as the winning hit down cover's throat. Nash hit the next ball to the boundary.
Man of the Match: S. B. Doull.
Close of play: First day, New Zealand 52-1 (Horne 16*, Fleming 27*); Second day, New Zealand 290-7 (Nash 56*, Vettori 35*); Third day, India 179-3 (Ganguly 47*, Tendulkar 42*); Fourth day, New Zealand 73-4 (McMillan 17*, Wiseman 0*).