Although Richard Hadlee had sworn never to set foot again on the Indian sub-continent, the prospect of making the world Test bowling record exclusively his proved irresistible. To the delight of the country's many cricket-lovers, he came to India after an absence of twelve years, and it was soon evident that he was a performer of an entirely different class this time. On his previous visit he was a young man looking to earn a reputation; now he was the champion on a mission. And after eighteen minutes of the start of the Test series, Hadlee had his 374th Test wicket when Arun Lal edged into the slips. His feat was warmly applauded and he went on to dominate the series with a technically faultless display of the use of the cricket ball. His eighteen wickets were the basis on which the visitors contested and provided an interesting series which was not decided until the Third and last Test.
The strength of India's spin bowling on doubtful pitches was the principal reason for the anticipated result of a home win. However, with the matches being played on result-oriented pitches, the crowds came back to Test cricket, providing a financial success which was especially welcome after the previous season's disastrous series against West Indies. The New Zealand batting was not really convincing against the contrasting spin of Arshad Ayub and Narendra Hirwani, save when the lower order, in which the wicket-keeper-batsman, Ian Smith, was the major force, rescued it.
The Indian batting, mesmerised by the astute swing and seam bowling of Hadlee, came to terms with him only in the final Test, in which the conditions, ironically, favoured bounce and pace. But John Bracewell, the tall off-spinner, played a notable part in the New Zealanders' triumph in the Bombay Test when they drew level after India, fired by a century from Navjot Sidhu, staging a Test comeback, had gone one-up in Bangalore. New Zealand had been outmanoeuvred rather than outplayed in the First Test, their lack of familiarity with leg-spin producing a final-day decline after the promise of a gritty fight-back. It was at Bangalore that a virus was said to have swept through the team hotel and incapacitated to various degrees the majority of the tourists. Hadlee was one of those who became very ill on the rest day. Happily the setback was strictly temporary, and yet to get up from the dual low of illness and defeat and go on to win the Second Test was a remarkable feat by the New Zealanders.
Krishnamachari Srikkanth, India's vice-captain, who had a fine series, topping the averages, scuttled Bracewell's threat with precision in the deciding match at Hyderabad. And Mohammad Azharuddin recaptured the touch of his glorious début days in an innings of 81 which took India's first-innings lead to decisive proportions. Even at the end of the series the New Zealanders had not fathomed ways to counter spin positively, and Ayub's off-spin and Hirwani's leg-spin, coupled with Kapil Dev's crucial burst at the end, sealed New Zealand's fate. The two spinners shared 41 wickets between them in the series.
John Wright, the New Zealand captain, played watchfully throughout the series and did his best to demonstrate how temperament could aid batsmen, even in the most adverse of circumstances. At Bombay he became the highest scorer for his country, passing B. E. Congdon's aggregate of 3,448. Wright also did the game a world of good by going through the tour with the most sporting approach possible. He made many friends in taking his side without a murmur of protest through the vexing difficulties of a play-pack-travel-play sequence in the one-day series. The rest of his top order, however, were not consistent enough to allow New Zealand's bowlers any margin for error. Hadlee's fellow-seamers toiled manfully in providing support, but when Hadlee returned home after the Third Test, having injured an Achilles' tendon, the Kiwis were hopelessly out of their depth.
India proved immensely superior in the one-day internationals, and at Baroda Azharuddin recorded the fastest century in a limited-overs international, reaching 100 off 62 balls. The Test and the one-day series represented the first home triumphs for India's captain, Dilip Vengsarkar, but while there were victories, there was not much for India by way of new players coming through.
Test matches - Played 3: Won 1, Lost 2.
First-class matches - Played 6: Won 1, Lost 2, Drawn 3.
Win - India.
Losses - India (2).
Draws - West Zone, North Zone, Tamil Nadu.
One-day internationals - Played 4: Lost 4. Abandoned 1.
Match reports for
5th ODI: India v New Zealand at Jammu, Dec 19, 1988