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The first four days provided the best entertainment for many years in a Test match in New Zealand, with the opening day producing the most dramatic turn-round in the home team's fortunes. Glad to be in the field, India's bowlers made the most of the humid conditions and the lateral movement off the pitch, which seemed like a lawn bowling green after the one at Napier. At lunch, New Zealand were five wickets down for 78, most falling to catches behind the wicket, and when Rutherford was out soon after the resumption, New Zealand were in all sorts of trouble. However, Thomson, on his Test debut, met fire with fire, adding 46 in 36 minutes, and as the pitch lost its early life, New Zealand staged a remarkable recovery. With Hadlee at his most assertive, hitting his 87 from 108 balls, Smith was virtually a passenger as he contributed 38 to their eight-wicket partnership of 103 in 23 overs, a New Zealand record against India.
But after Hadlee had departed, 1 run short of his 3,000 test aggregate, Smith was definitely the driver, finishing with 169 not out at the close of play off 128 balls. With Snedden he set a New Zealand ninth-wicket record against all countries, putting on 136, of which the junior partner scored 22. Most of Smith's early runs came from hooks, pulls and on-drives but true to character, he later played a full measure of cuts, and strokes into the covers. He went to 50 off 56 balls, 100 off 95 and 150 off 188, and by the day's end he had hit three sixes and 23 fours. In taking 24 off an over from Wassan (244266), he equalled the Test record for runs off a six-ball over shared by A. M. E. Roberts, S. M. Patil and I.T Botham. Smith's eventual 173, off 136 balls, was the highest score by a New Zealander at Eden Park, the highest by a New Zealand wicket-keeper, and the highest by anyone batting at No. 9 in a Test, beating C. Hill's 160 for Australia against England in 1907-08. The savagery of the attack by Hadlee and Smith had the Indian attack reeling. Wassam had taken three for 23 on the first morning; his nine overs in the afternoon cost 85 runs, and New Zealand scored 309 in the last two sessions.
India in reply lost an early wicket, but there was the dour Prabhakar, and Vengskar showed the first glimpse of form since reaching New Zealand. He was there while 144 were added for the fourth wicket, but no-one could doubt who the senior partner was. Azharuddin was masterly, treating the New Zealand seam bowlers - and there were no others - with polite contempt. He stroked the ball silkily and with educated wrists, and there was no stopping the eighteen boundaries he hit during the day, many of them coming from fluent drives. He reached his century from 144 balls and next day, in perfect batting conditions, he went on to 192 before being last out. More, making 50 from 58 balls, helped him put on 88 in 84 minutes; Wassan carried the attack further, facing 58 balls also in scoring 53 as he and his captain added 86. The run rate was staggering. Before lunch, 148 came in two hours, and the first five overs of the new ball cost New Zealand 50 runs. India finished with their highest total in New Zealand and a lead of 91.
After Franklin had gone quickly, Wright and Jones had the utmost difficulty in keeping out the eager Indian bowling. They survived so well, though, that New Zealand were ahead without further loss at the close of play. But on the fourth day, from a full quota of 90 overs, New Zealand scored just 281 runs, a reminder that this was a Test match. Wright became the first New Zealander to make 4,000 Test runs, Crowe, who had promised a century in every home series, delivered, and Jones and Crowe were associated in a third-wicket partnership of 179. India bowled with such purpose that only 79 runs were scored in the morning, and Raman finished the day with his nineteen overs having cost just 23 runs. The final day was a sad anticlimax. Rain in the morning cost 45 minutes play, and New Zealand declared shortly before lunch with the addition of 67 to their overnight lead of 325. Jones remained unbeaten with his highest Test score, his 170 in 634 minutes being the longest innings by a New Zealander in a major home match.
Wright defended his action in declaring so late - India needed 314 at 6.14 an over by saying that the Indians had scored at 4.6 an over in the first innings and that New Zealand's only hope of winning in perfect batting conditions was for India's batsmen to self-destruct in a frantic effort to get the runs. Bedi agreed. "If we were one up, I wouldn't have declared. It wasn't a festival game, it was a Test Match."