Tuffey celebrates the dismissal of Bangar
New Zealand fast-medium bowler Daryl Tuffey unleashed one of his finest bowling spells in his 12-Test career today, but probably the best ball he bowled, as India crumbled to 92/8 at Hamilton, went without a wicket.
The 24-year-old, who was bowling on his home pitch, bowled an immaculate line and length, and was so accurate that it was 39 balls before he conceded his first run.
He had already had his nearly traditional first over dismissal when Sanjay Bangar was taken by Jacob Oram diving forward in the gully. But it was a ball to Rahul Dravid, still the best looking of the technicians in this side, that almost defied description.
It certainly defied Dravid to get the bat on it. If this was the sort of leg cutter that Alec Bedser used to bowl so regularly it must have been marvellous to watch.
Watch was all Dravid could do. The ball cut cross him, having squared him up. He was unable to make any contact with the ball and it just passed over the top of off stump.
By this time, Tuffey had changed ends from his first spell which saw him go runless for four overs while taking Bangar's wicket.
India found themselves attempting to survive through the 38 overs required to be bowled due to the late start caused by the slow-drying outfield. It seems incongruous that a perfectly fine and sunny day should take so long to get started.
While Tuffey was disappointed not to pick up Dravid on that occasion, the batsman's confidence was slowly being ground down. Fast bowler Shane Bond got through Dravid's defences several times with balls that climbed just above the pads which should ensure he has a few bruises tonight.
Then Sachin Tendulkar was given the treatment with another leg cutter which again squared the batsman up. Tendulkar did have his edge taken and third slip Scott Styris completed a tidy catch.
Tuffey beat Sourav Ganguly before his over was finished, and he had still to be scored off.
Dravid took a single from him in his next over and then Ganguly cut a ball for four. But then, in an inexplicable shot under the circumstances, Ganguly looked like a cricket coach giving his slips cordon some practice hits and a craftsman at first slip as good as Stephen Fleming wasn't going to let the chance go.
In taking the catch, the 110th of his Test career, Fleming moved past Sir Garfield Sobers on the all-time list and now shares 10th equal place with Bobby Simpson and Walter Hammond, heady company.
With Ganguly gone, and India 34/4, the pressure for Dravid to complete a rescue act mounted, but Tuffey was too good on the day and eventually he had more of a straighter ball, straighter at least under the circumstances prevailing, catch an edge which flew to wicket-keeper Robbie Hart's right. But another hometown player, Hart, dived full-length to pull in the chance.
At that stage Tuffey's figures were sensational. He had bowled 7.5 overs, six maidens and had four wickets for five runs.
Fleming then rested him, wisely as it turned out, as V V S Laxman, who played some fine drives through the off-side played at a wider, fuller ball from Bond which he pulled onto his wickets to give the fast man his second wicket after he had earlier unleashed a snarling ball that Virender Sehwag wanted nothing to do with.
It rose on him from just short of a length and Sehwag, caught in no-man's land, opted to turn his back on the ball. But the ball flew from the edge of his bat onto his shoulder and bounced out to short leg fieldsman Mark Richardson.
In his second spell after removing Laxman, Bond was given the treatment by Harbhajan Singh. The off-spinner unveiled an array of shots which were probably best suited to other sports, notably baseball and tennis, as he took five boundaries from Bond before the bowler got a yorker length ball through Harbajhan and into his wickets.
It only remained for Oram, who had bowled well without reward in his first spell, to come back and bowl the last over. He only needed one ball as Zaheer Khan was comprehensively bowled.
Play ended at that point. Tuffey ended with four for 12, Bond three for 33 and Oram one for 21.
Tuffey's bowling spell represented another significant performance in his career which has really blossomed in home conditions. Of his 41 Test wickets, which have come at an overall cost of 26.92, 34 have been taken at home, at an average of 20.08. His average away from home is 60.14!
But if you had a choice of top batsmen you would like to dismiss in front of your home crowd, then Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly would not be too bad as the prize.
There was another significant difference today, the wind he had to bowl into in Wellington during the first Test was nowhere to be seen or felt.
"I felt my rhythm was really good in the first innings bowling into the wind in Wellington.
"Without the wind today, and playing on my home ground - I really love bowling here and it seemed to come out nicely and the length was important," he said.
Tuffey said it was enjoyable bowling in partnership with fast man Bond.
"My job is to put it on the right length and right line and all I wanted to do today was make them play 90% of the balls and let the wicket get them out," he said.
The plan worked perfectly.