Close New Zealand 536 for 5 (Richardson 145, Styris 119)
Scorecard



Scott Styris became New Zealand's third centurion of the innings
© AFP


India had more success on the second day than on the first, but not necessarily more joy, as New Zealand ground their way to a mammoth 536 for 5. The Indian bowlers were ineffective, unable to stop either Mark Richardson from extending his gritty knock or Scott Styris from chalking up an entertaining century. New Zealand controlled proceedings all day but did not make enough of an attempt to score quickly and give themselves sufficient time to bowl India out twice.

The best part of the day was dogged, turgid cricket. New Zealand applied themselves in a manner more expected while batting on a greentop under overcast skies at Headingley, or if the ball was spitting and fizzing on a rank turner. But on a wicket that was nice and easy to bat on, with true bounce and pace, against a tiring attack that could only be called an attack because of Anil Kumble, it seemed rather strange. But Stephen Fleming is no fool. The Indians will know that he must have had firm plans in his mind when he instructed his team to play the way it did.

Of all the batsmen, Richardson's plans were easily the best-laid. He puts a high price on his wicket, tries nothing foolish and is utterly predictable in the best sort of way. There was no unseemly haste to score quick runs, and today Richardson dug deep into a seemingly endless well of concentration and accumulated runs, unmindful of whatever little commotion there was at the other end.

Interestingly, in the course of his 410-ball stay at the crease, Richardson brought up 2000 Test runs. The fact that he has done so as quickly as anyone in New Zealand cricket seems to have slipped by unnoticed. He's taken 26 Tests and 44 innings to do so, the same as Andrew Jones, the former New Zealand one-down batsman. Then again, it is hardly surprising that Richardson's achievement went by without causing a flutter; his batting has been much the same, understated, without flourish and utterly effective.

When he finally fell, lofting Harbhajan Singh to Kumble at long-on (382 for 2), Richardson had made a career-best 145. The wicket, falling against the run of play, brought Fleming out to the middle.

It was only after lunch that the first signs of acceleration became apparent. Soon after the break, Styris unveiled his full range of strokes, driving well and lofted magnificently over the infield on the leg side. He enjoyed his cricket every bit, often holding the pose after playing a big shot and grinning from ear to ear to his colleague.

Fleming had proceeded to drive with authority; without taking too much time to settle in, he took on the bowlers. He scored briskly, unusually so, hitting three boundaries and a six, but it did not last long. The 35th ball he faced, a Sachin Tendulkar delivery that swung late, knocked the off stump right out of the ground (433 for 3).

The move to send Styris (119, 230 balls, 10 fours, 2 sixes) up the order proved to be a master stroke. Even Kumble, easily the best bowler on show, was thrashed back over his head for a huge six. He did eventually extract revenge though, trapping Styris in front of the stumps (447 for 4).

From then on, all thoughts of acceleration were left squarely in the capable hands of Craig McMillan. He was aggressive from the moment he walked out to the middle, handlebar moustache and all. He irritated the spinners no end, sweeping, reverse-sweeping and dabbing the ball away into gaps. He even managed to get Rudi Koertzen's goat, running up and down the wicket and receiving an official warning. At the other end, Nathan Astle was scratchy and used up 73 balls for 18 before chopping Harbhajan Singh into the wicketkeeper's gloves (507 for 5).

All said, New Zealand will still have to bat a bit on the third day before they can declare. From then on, the ball will be in India's court, and Rahul Dravid's men will then find themselves in the rare position of having to focus on avoiding the follow-on in a home Test. That, more than anything else, is an indication of how much in control New Zealand are.

Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo in India.