1st Test

India v New Zealand, 2012

Kaushik Ramakrishnan

At Hyderabad (Uppal), August 23-26, 2012. India won by an innings and 115 runs. Toss: India.


Cheteshwar Pujara plays a square-cut, India v New Zealand, 1st Test, Hyderabad, 1st day, August 23, 2012
Cheteshwar Pujara scored 159 in his first Test in over 18 months © Associated Press
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India were always heavy favourites, but even they must have been pleasantly surprised at the ease and swiftness of victory with more than a day to spare. New Zealand came unstuck against probing spin, with Ashwin to the fore. He had done well in his debut series, against West Indies in November 2011, but struggled a little in unhelpful conditions in Australia shortly after. Now, though, he was back on home turf, and in his element - teasing and tormenting the batsmen with his control and guile. There was some help for him and his spin partner Ojha, but the pitch was not quite the "real turning track" that Taylor, New Zealand's captain, pronounced it to be.

This was the first Test of the post-Dravid-and-Laxman era, which meant all eyes were on India's relatively inexperienced middle order. Pujara, at No. 3, was playing his first Test for more than 18 months; Raina was recalled after a year-long absence; and Kohli - for all his one-day experience - was winning only his ninth Test cap. If there were worries about whether the young guns could replace the old arsenal, they were to a large extent answered: Pujara compiled a masterful 159, and received excellent support from Kohli after India had found themselves 125 for three on the first day against a New Zealand attack that was more honest than threatening. They doubled the score and, after another mini-stutter, India were hauled out of the woods by Pujara and Dhoni, who added 127 for the sixth wicket to help boost the total past 400.

New Zealand's batting woes began almost immediately. Spin wasn't long in coming, and Ojha struck a massive blow in his first over, when McCullum, their most attacking batsman, skimmed a low catch into the covers. From then on, they waged a losing battle, apparently leaving footwork and soft hands behind in the dressing-room.

Ashwin did away with the over-experimentation that had blighted his tour of Australia and concentrated instead on making the most of his off-break. His ability to test the batsmen with flight, loop and dip paid handsome dividends as he scythed through the order, with only Williamson and Franklin offering much resistance. The parsimonious Ojha produced a genuine beauty which drifted in, then broke away on pitching, to catch Williamson's outside edge. As slip catches go, this one was reasonably straightforward but, throughout the match, Sehwag and Kohli suggested India had found close-in replacements for Dravid and Laxman.

New Zealand were shot out in a shade over four hours and, with the weather closing in, Dhoni had no hesitation in enforcing the follow-on. Trailing by 279, New Zealand showed greater character, but once again they abandoned their natural game and tried to keep wickets intact. With the ball turning and bouncing, and close fielders hovering, it was a tactic fraught with danger.

McCullum and Williamson inched to 98 for one in 45 overs, but the floodgates opened once Yadav won a fortuitous leg-before shout against McCullum, who had got a big edge on to his pads (with no DRS to save him). The last nine wickets clattered for just 66, and Taylor's dismissal - offering no stroke to Ashwin as the ball hit the top of off - epitomised the tourists' uncertainty. Ashwin finished with 12 for 85, match figures bettered against New Zealand only by Courtney Walsh, who took 13 for 55 for West Indies at Wellington in 1994-95.

Man of the Match: R. Ashwin.

Close of play: first day, India 307-5 (Pujara 119, Dhoni 29); second day, New Zealand 106-5 (Franklin 31, van Wyk 0); third day, New Zealand 41-1 (McCullum 16, Williamson 3).

© John Wisden & Co.