First Test Match

New Zealand v India

At Basin Reserve, Wellington, December 12, 13, 14, 2002. New Zealand won by ten wickets. Toss: New Zealand. Test debut: J. D. P. Oram.

The two anti-war protesters who broke into the ground at 2 a.m. on the second morning were clearly on to something. They were using petrol to burn six-foot-high letters into the outfield, protesting against the expected American invasion of Iraq. They got as far as "NO WA" before they were arrested. India's batsmen, though, got the message: a fight was not on their agenda either.

Already skittled for 161 in the first innings, they were bundled out for 121 in their second, in under three hours. The match was all over by 4.30 on the third afternoon, but interruptions for rain meant that New Zealand's 300th Test had lasted the equivalent of just over two days' play.

Fleming admitted that winning the toss had been crucial. The pitch changed from green to brown during the game, yet never lost its spongy quality and offered seam movement and bounce throughout. The batsmen needed to graft rather than glitter but, with the exception of Dravid and Tendulkar, India did neither. Charging into a backbreaking nor'wester that transformed the pohutakawa trees outside the ground into a billowing sea of red, Tuffey quickly removed the openers. Then came the big one, as the debutant Jacob Oram got the ball to cut back at Tendulkar, who perished lbw playing no stroke to a delivery heading over the stumps. Either side of lunch, Bond hurried out Ganguly, already dropped twice in the slips, and Laxman to leave India in disarray at 55 for five.

They were saved from annihilation by the wristy expertise of Dravid, who took his chances outside off and peppered the boundary between third man and extra cover before he was ninth out, beaten by a Styris nip-backer. Styris had already removed Agarkar and Harbhajan Singh - to a hare-brained short-arm pull - in successive balls, only to be denied a hat-trick when Zaheer Khan edged just in front of third slip.

In reply, New Zealand were grateful for the unfussy application of Richardson, who shouldered arms like an automaton and forced the bowlers to aim straighter. The result was a series of leg-side nudges, with the odd slash and drive to complete his nuggety repertoire. At 181 for three, New Zealand were cruising towards a big lead, but Zaheer kept things tight to finish with his first Test haul of five, Harbhajan - brought on surprisingly late by Ganguly - caused a mid-innings flutter with his turn and bounce, and the last seven fell for 66. Richardson, dropped in the slips on 63 and 83, finally fell to the first delivery with the second new ball. He was typically modest about his 407-minute, 245-ball vigil: "I just fought and scrapped and poked and pushed, really," he shrugged.

India began their second innings shortly before noon on the third day - and were hit by a hurricane. Tearing in with the wind behind him, Bond trapped Sehwag on the crease, bowled Dravid with a booming in-swinger - Bond later claimed it was the only ball he had got to swing all day - and had Ganguly feathering to the keeper. At lunch, his figures read 8-5-8-3 and, for a brief moment after the break, joy was unconfined when he bowled Tendulkar, on three, off an inside edge. But umpire de Silva harshly called no-ball. No matter: Tuffey, supported by razor-sharp catching, chipped away at a compliant lower order, and Bond bowled Tendulkar off the inside edge again, this time legitimately, to complete match figures of seven for 99. India simply failed to live with his venom and bounce.

New Zealand were left to make 36, and Richardson cut the winning runs with a whoop of delight and a punch of the air. It was New Zealand's 11th win at the Basin Reserve, which officially made it their happiest hunting-ground; India, by contrast, had now lost four Tests there in a row.

Man of the Match: M. H. Richardson.

© John Wisden & Co