First Test Match

New Zealand v India

When the Test pitch at Eden Park was uncovered after a period of unseasonable rain, the New Zealand selectors sent for the former Hampshire left-arm bowler, O'Sullivan, although he had not been in the original selection. Their misgivings were understandable. After being under flat covers for about nine days, the grass had died completely, and the pitch was heaven-sent for the Indian slow bowlers.

Had Turner not won the toss, and had New Zealand not batted first, the margin of defeat would undoubtedly have been even greater. The ball turned readily on the first morning. New Zealand's wretched catching contributed almost as significantly to the loss of the match. Seven chances were missed on the second day and two more on the third morning.

New Zealand made a satisfactory start -- 95 for one at lunch, but there came a mid-afternoon collapse, followed by slow, defensive innings by Burgess, Wadsworth and Dayle Hadlee. Chandrasekhar finished the innings with three wickets in his last 14 balls.

New Zealand's 266 seemed a reasonably good total. It was wrung from the bowlers. Prasanna, with sharp turn, was often able to bowl to two-seven fields. Venkataraghavan was just as persistent and denying, Chandrasekhar as a delight with his quick leg-breaks and googlies. India's fielding and catching were first-class.

India gained a lead of 148 mainly through Gavaskar and Surinder Amarnath, who shared a second-wicket stand of 204 in four hours twenty minutes. Amarnath was dropped at 8, 23 and 71. Gavaskar at 40, 43 and 65. There was sharp turn for the spinners, but neither Howarth nor O'Sullivan could find steady line or length and the fielding did the rest. For all that, both batsmen played some superb attacking shots. It was Gavaskar's sixth Test century, Amarnath's first.

Some probing bowling by Congdon helped to get New Zealand back into the game, but on the third morning Mohinder Amarnath played beautifully for his 64 in one and three-quarter hours. Congdon took five wickets in a Test innings for the first time.

With the ball turning angrily, New Zealand were soon in trouble, but Parker and Congdon gave an outstandingly good display in making 122 for the third wicket. Batting was genuinely difficult, but they countered clever spinning by making decided movements, either forward or back, and slowly the sharp edge left the bowling. By the end of the third day, New Zealand were 161 for two and held a lead of 13.

It needed a minor miracle for such incredibly good batting to be sustained, and once Parker left to the first ball of the fourth day, the end came swiftly. In five overs, Prasanna took five wickets for six runs with the support of fine fielding and batting which was generally without spirit.

India lost two wickets, as the slow bowlers had the ball bouncing remarkably -- a couple of times, head high to slip -- but the game ended half an hour after lunch, with a full day to spare. Prasanna, eight for 76, exploited the situation brilliantly and had his best Test return.

© John Wisden & Co