Vettori, Ryder revive New Zealand (Roundup)

March 18th, 2009 - 3:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Harbhajan Singh Hamilton, March 18 (IANS) Centuries from skipper Daniel Vettori and Jesse Ryder guided New Zealand to a modest first innings total of 279 after Indian fast bowlers ran through the top-order on the first day of the first Test here Wednesday.
At the close of play in Seddon Park, India were 29 for no loss with Virender Sehwag on 22 and Gautam Gambhir on six.

India fast bowlers backed their captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s decision to field by reducing New Zealand to 60 for six. But the 186-run stand between Vettori (118) and Ryder (102), who scored his maiden Test hundred, helped the Black Caps restore some respectability.

Ishant Sharma was the top performer with four for 73 while Munaf Patel hit back at his detractors with three for 60 and Zaheer Khan got two.

Dhoni said after winning the toss that he wanted his bowlers to bowl on a fresh pitch if his side has to take 20 wickets to win a Test. And the muggy conditions and a greenish top seemed to justify the decision.

Zaheer, Ishant and Munaf ripped through the New Zealand top order applying tremendous pressure on the batsmen.

The start of the innings did not suggest that the pitch had any devil in it though Zaheer and Ishant got the ball to wobble a bit.

Zaheer began the rout when he found the edge of Martin Guptill’s bat and third-slip Rahul Dravid dived to his left in front of V.V.S. Laxman to come up with the catch at the second attempt. It was Dravid’s 181st catch and he now shares the world record for catches with Australian Mark Waugh.

Zaheer’s next victim was Daniel Flynn whose flick ended in a leg-side caught-behind for Dhoni to give the left-arm bowler his 199th Test wicket. Had Virender Sehwag not grassed Ross Taylor off Ishant at gully, despite being in a position to grab it twice, the Black Caps’ plight would have been much worse.

Taylor started to stroke the ball well to make the Indians wonder if they would pay for the lapse. Zaheer seemed to have had an extended spell as he showed signs of flagging as McIntosh and Taylor looked comfortable.

Ishant returned to bowl and McIntosh’s attempt to steer went straight to the first of two gullies, Sehwag. With Munaf pegging away to mount the pressure, Ishant struck again as Taylor could not negotiate a terrific delivery which took his off stump nicking the pad on the way.

Ishant was lucky to get his third wicket as James Franklin, staging a comeback to Test cricket, was ruled caught behind by Simon Taufel, though replays clearly showed that the ball had kissed the back pad with the bat nowhere near it.

Half the New Zealand batting was back for 51 runs and when Brendon McCullum followed them and Vettori walked in to join Ryder, the situation was grim.

But Vettori and Ryder revived the New Zealand innings, completely dominating the second session, scoring 101 runs and in the process bringing up their half-centuries.

Vettori looked in a hurry and top-edging Zaheer behind Dhoni he brought up the 100 of the innings. He pulled and drove Munaf for fours and an inside-edged four off the same bowler got him to his half-century off 85 balls.

Vettori swept Harbhajan Singh to get his third Test century off 138 balls. He eventually fell to Munaf after facing 164 balls and hitting 14 boundaries and two sixes. Munaf bowled Kyle Mills the next ball and O’Brien averted the hat-trick.

O’Brien did not stay for long as he charged Harbhajan to be stumped, leaving Ryder on 98. Last man, Chris Martin anxiously saw the remaining five ball of Harbhajan’s over and gave Ryder a chance to get to his maiden Test hundred.

In the next over, Ryder pulled Ishant for a four to get his century, but another heave off the fast bowler resulted in an easy catch to Laxman at mid-on.

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