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A fascinating Second Test in Wellington, when New Zealand won handsomely, brought to life a series which had started inauspiciously when the opening game was washed out. The Third Test was also drawn, but interest was sustained until the final morning. The abbreviated series was redeemed by a common aim to play positive, attractive cricket and by the unusually high quality of the pitches, whose pace and bounce allowed batsmen freedom of strokeplay while rewarding bowlers prepared to work for wickets.
Though India were a team of stars compared with New Zealand's journeymen, the home side were fitter, were committed and more resilient. The key players on whom India depended were not consistent enough to compensate for the team's many shortcomings. The top of their batting order was vulnerable and, until the tail end of the tour, the fielding ranged between poor and embarrassing. India hardly looked like the bubbly, confident team that had beaten Australia 2-1 at home in March; but they were all too recognisable as the side humiliated by Zimbabwe in October. The portents of defeat were apparent from their opening fixture of the tour, when they were trounced by Central Districts. They recovered to beat Wellington, but without looking convincing or ready for the Test series.
For all their vaunted batting strength, India were bowled out three times in four Test innings because their batsmen lacked the mental discipline demanded by Test cricket. The exception was Rahul Dravid, who made a model 190 to keep India in contention in the Hamilton Test - and followed up with another hundred on the final day. Sachin Tendulkar scored 227 in three masterful innings, but was always in too much for a hurry for runs, when India needed him to play a longer game. Mohammad Azharuddin was below his best form, but his one century saved India from rout in the Wellington Test. The shallowness of their attack further disadvantaged India. Only Javagal Srinath was a constant threat, and even he looked jaded. Venkatesh Prasad had lost his edge and Anil Kumble rarely posed serious problems.
Like India, New Zealand struggled for sound starts to their innings. Captain Stephen Fleming managed only one score of any note. He was not fully fit, and had to drop out of the one-day series which followed. But the early stutters were regularly redeemed by Craig McMillan, who was as reliable as he was belligerent, with 274 runs at 91.33. The Indian bowlers' limitations always left scope for late recoveries, and Dion Nash, batting with good sense and resolve, was usually ready to take advantage. He also took over the captaincy for the one-day games, drawn 2-2 with one rained off. Chris Cairns looked a genuine international all-rounder, playing major innings in both Tests and bowling especially well at Hamilton. But Simon Doull's swing made probably the biggest contribution to New Zealand's Test victory. That set up their third home series win in a row - and left India still looking for their first away win since 1993-94.
INDIAN TOURING PARTY
M. Azharuddin (Hyderabad) (captain), A. Jadeja (Haryana) (vice-captain), R. Dravid (Karnataka). S. C. Ganguly (Bengal), Harbhajan Singh (Punjab), S. B. Joshi (Karnataka), A. Kumble (Karnataka), V. V. S. Laxman (Hyderabad), D. S. Mohanty (Orissa), N. R. Mongia (Baroda), B. K. V. Prasad (Karnataka), N. S. Sidhu (Punjab), R. Singh (Delhi), J. Srinath (Karnataka), S. R. Tendulkar (Mumbai).
R. Singh joined the squad when A. B. Agarkar (Mumbai) withdrew through injury. N. Chopra (Delhi), H. H. Kanitkar (Maharashtra) and R. R. Singh (Tamil Nadu) replaced Sidhu, R. Singh and Harbhajan Singh for the limited-overs series.
Tour manager: S. D. A. Dabru. Coach: A. D. Gaekwad.
Test matches - Played 2: Lost 1, Drawn 1, Abandoned 1.
First-class matches - Played 4; Won 1, Lost 2, Drawn 1, Abandoned 1.
Win - Wellington.
Losses - New Zealand, Central Districts.
Draw - New Zealand.
Abandoned - New Zealand.
One-day internationals - Played 5; Won 2, Lost 2, No result 1.
Other non-first-class match - Lost v New Zealand XI.
Match reports for
1st Test: New Zealand v India at Dunedin, Dec 18-22, 1998
2nd Test: New Zealand v India at Wellington, Dec 26-30, 1998
3rd Test: New Zealand v India at Hamilton, Jan 2-6, 1999
1st ODI: New Zealand v India at Taupo, Jan 9, 1999
2nd ODI: New Zealand v India at Napier, Jan 12, 1999
3rd ODI: New Zealand v India at Wellington, Jan 14, 1999
4th ODI: New Zealand v India at Auckland, Jan 16, 1999
5th ODI: New Zealand v India at Christchurch, Jan 19, 1999