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BANGALORE: Ross Taylor's remarkable turnaround in form that saw realization through an aggressive century boosted New Zealand to 328 for six on the first day of the second Test, here on Friday.
Taylor's racy hundred (113, 127b, 16x4, 2x6) overshadowed left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha's four for 90, as New Zealand resorted - successfully, for once - to the proven Test match tactic of building partnerships. Three such alliances took the visitors to relative safety at close, with Kruger van Wyk (63 batting) and Doug Bracewell (30 batting) holding firm in the middle, when bad light ended proceedings prematurely at around 4 p.m.
Having surrendered the Hyderabad Test by a massive margin, New Zealand won the toss and came out all guns blazing at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium. Opener Martin Guptill set the tone with a brisk half-century, and Taylor - after a wretched time at Uppal - tore into the Indian attack post lunch. The beginnings, however, were not as propitious as the Kiwis lost their first wicket for no score in the second over of the morning.
Zaheer Khan, who came on after Ojha had opened the bowling, pitched one on the good length spot and trapped Brendon McCullum in front for a duck. New Zealand subsequently resisted spin for over an hour, as Guptill and Williamson added 63. But Ojha soon got through the latter with one that snuck onto the back pad of the advancing batsman.
Opener Guptill was dropped on 17 by an overenthusiastic Virat Kohli off Zaheer, as the fielder dove from third slip and spilt a catch that was headed straight to second slip. The reprieved batsman played a series of sparkling strokes off Umesh Yadav and reached his half-century in quicktime - with eight hits to the fence. Guptill was out on 53 when he struck a tossed-up Ojha ball straight to Gautam Gambhir at midwicket.
Then it was time for Taylor to take over. The Kiwi captain 's 113 contained 18 boundaries - including a menacing slog-swept maximum off R. Ashwin. What a remarkable turnaround it was for Taylor! In the first Test, he lost the toss, dropped catches, and scored nine across two innings. But on Friday, his belligerence paid off.
Taylor was just about revving his engine before lunch. On resumption, he slammed the pedal all the way down. No bowler was spared as slog sweeps and full-blooded drives were biffed with authority. Ojha, usually a picture of parsimony, was creamed for four boundaries in an over; Zaheer was dispatched arrogantly straight back; Ashwin was caressed all the way down to the fine-leg fence.
Another four, cut viciously off Ojha, gave Taylor his seventh Test hundred in just 99 balls. The skipper and Daniel Flynn added 107 in under 19 overs, before the southpaw got out in a way that has become characteristic of his dismissals. Flynn's patient 33 had proved to be the perfect foil to Taylor's aggressive ways, but when he missed an attempted sweep off Ashwin, the leg-before verdict reprised to perfection both his dismissals from the first Test.
New Zealand were 196 for four at that stage with all eyes on all-rounder James Franklin, who had displayed some ability to stick it out in the first Test. Here, again, Franklin loitered around for 35 balls for his 8, before playing a horrible flick off an Ojha full-toss that was pouched by a diving Suresh Raina at mid-wicket, leaving the side on 215 for 5.
Taylor was the last man out and Ojha's fourth wicket when he went for a sweep, missed and was struck in front. Wicket-keeper batsman van Wyk and Bracewell ensured no further losses were endured for the visiting side as they added 82 for the seventh wicket, negotiating the second new ball for half-an-over before deteriorating light and a mild drizzle restricted play to 81.3 overs.
Officials have proposed for a 9 a.m. start on Saturday to make up for the loss of time.