Spinners tighten the noose around New Zealand

Visitors 332 runs behind with five wickets in hand.


Scorecard | Action in images | VVS Special

Relief for Pujara family | Need to be patient: Ashwin | We'll fight back: Jeetan

Test matches in India follow a path oft-trodden: elect to bat; pile on a huge score; slice open the soft underbelly of visitors through a tailored combination of mostly spin; allow the dust from the bowlers’ footmarks to billow up in a haze of celebration.

Reminds you of something? Of a trusty pattern beget from a gargantuan first innings total and a wearing wicket? Of flat-track bullies and spin triumvirates? Of overseas kittens roaring loudly in their backyard?

Sub-continental cricket may no longer be as parochial as it used to be, but it’s likely that the ongoing first Test against New Zealand will adhere to the tried and tested template of India’s homeground spoils.

Resuming on 307-5 on Friday morning under a heavy cloud cover conducive to New Zealand’s brand of attack, India added just 131 for their remaining five wickets, before the innings concluded on 438 at the stroke of tea. The hosts’ spinning duo of R. Ashwin (3 for 30) and Pragyan Ojha (2 for 35) then shot out half the NZ side, leaving the visitors with a deficit of 332 at close.

Winning spin

Ashwin and Ojha bowled 29 of the 42 overs, tightening the noose slowly but surely. New Zealand’s response was standard. Opener Brendon McCullum, who scored a double hundred the last time he batted on this ground, initiated proceedings with a four off Zaheer Khan. The pacers, Zaheer and Umesh Yadav, soon made way for slower bowlers.

Mc Cullum paid for his aggression when spin was introduced in the eighth over in the form of Pragyan Ojha. The left-armer’s flighted offering outside the off-stump drew him into a shot, which was struck to Virat Kohli at cover.

R. Ashwin replaced Zaheer in the 11th over, and struck immediately, tossing one up to Martin Guptill that the in-form batsman bat-padded to Kohli at backward short-leg, leaving New Zealand struggling on 29 for 2.
Kohli brewed up more trouble for NZ at backward short-leg when he snared a low catch of Ross Taylor, who flicked Ashwin nonchalantly with the turn. The decision was referred to the third umpire, who adjudicated that the catch was held cleanly.

Left-handed Daniel Flynn showed some intent, sweeping Ojha for fours, but played the shot one time too many against Ashwin, and was trapped in front. New Zealand were 55 for four then and would have been more trouble had Sehwag held on to a tough Williamson chance that fell just short of first slip, off the bowling of Ashwin.

Once Williamson and Franklin settled in, Dhoni brought in Sehwag and Suresh Raina as spinning varietals, but the fifth wicket arrived late in the day when the pair had battled to a 44-run stand. Williamson (32) attempted a cut off Ojha, but the delivery spun away and caught the edge, coming to rest in Sehwag’s grasp at first slip. New Zealand finished on 106-5, and face an uphill task to avoid the follow on Saturday.

Pujara shines

The highlights of the morning’s contest were Cheteshwar Pujara swelling his maiden hundred to 159, and off-spinner Jeetan Patel picking up four scalps as India went for quick runs against relatively more attacking fields.

The start was delayed as groundsmen almost nailed the covers to the turf, preempting the rainclouds that were hovering above Secunderabad and were expected to descend onto the venue soon.
The rain bypassed Hyderabad, but 30 minutes were lost to this insane anticipatory move before Pujara (119 batting) and M.S. Dhoni (29 batting) resumed their attrition of New Zealand.

Pujara, without sounding the least boastful, had said on Thursday that he would ideally like to continue all the way to a double hundred, and his approach this morning reflected as much. He began watchfully against Chris Martin and Trent Boult.

The 24-year-old opened up soon enough, cracking two fours in a Boult over – one guided down to the vacant third man boundary, the other whipped past square leg. When medium pacer Doug Bracewell erred on length, Pujara was quick to drop back; one such swiveled pull to fine leg gave the youngster his 150, scored off 279 balls.

At the other end, Dhoni was going along in trademark fashion. After edging Martin uncomfortably on a couple of occasions, the India skipper launched into a juicy Bracewell half-volley and, in the same over, scampered a three to bring up his 25th Test fifty in 100 balls.

India scored 64 in 21 overs in the curtailed first session. When play resumed, Pujara finally ran out of patience and tried to clear long-on against Patel, only to be taken smartly by James Franklin pedaling back. Pujara and Dhoni added 127 in 43 overs.

Dhoni (73) too fell to Patel when he struck him hard to Bracewell at mid-off. R. Ashwin came in and smashed five fours in an entertaining 37 to bring up the 400. Ashwin, who had hammered three of his five boundaries off Patel, was stumped off the same bowler when he charged down the track and was beaten by flat and wide projectile.

The innings ended 12 short of 450 when a comical mix-up and run-out claimed the last man Umesh Yadav. The last four Indian wickets added 51. Patel picked up four wickets for 100.