Cricket: New Zealand put to the sword by India

By Dylan Cleave

New Zealand Cricket had marketed today as Family Day.

What they didn't intend was for it to be "stay home with your family day" because the cricket is over.

India duly completed a 10-wicket victory, ending 33 barren years without a test win on New Zealand's fertile soil.

New Zealand, thanks to Brendon McCullum's face-saving 84, avoided an innings defeat, though India didn't care.

They didn't have a worry in the world, in fact, finding time to clown around in the outfield as they took the foot off the gas for the first time in four days, allowing Iain O'Brien and McCullum to briefly make hay in a ninth-wicket partnership of 76.

"We were outplayed in all three facets of the game," a downbeat Daniel Vettori conceded. Although he thought the fielding was sloppy and the bowlers released pressure too easily, he saved his harshest criticism for his top six, who failed to lay a platform in either innings on a good batting wicket.

"We obviously need to bat longer. Eighty overs in both innings is just not acceptable. We have to bat at least 120 overs. I thought [yesterday] was a chance for a couple of guys to step up and make a real name for themselves.

It was good batting conditions and a good test of character and what you are as a batsman but we never gave ourselves an opportunity.

"We had two 50-run partnerships in the whole innings and if you compare it to the Indian innings, I think they had five or six. We never created momentum."

Vettori said the records of his top six batsmen indicated they all could play but they needed somebody to "fight pretty hard but unfortunately we never had that. We need 100s and 50s, even 200s, against a team like this.

"We need guys to bat a whole day, a day and a half, but we never had that in either innings."

Resuming at 75-3, New Zealand's batting was for the most part skittish, with the odd dash of resolve and just a sprinkling of class.

A lot rested on the shoulders of Ross Taylor but he was never at the races, scuffing his way to four off 30 balls before trying to force Munaf Patel off the back foot and slicing it to Virender Sehwag in the gully. He has now passed 50 just once in 15 test innings since his tour de force 154 not out at Old Trafford last year.

Jesse Ryder joined fellow southpaw Daniel Flynn and all too briefly they provided the perfect mix of defence at one end and attacking intent at the other. However, after a breezy 21, Ryder got his angles all wrong against Harbhajan Singh and was trapped stone-cold dead in front.

The decision to send Franklin (14) in ahead of McCullum appeared based on the order they were pencilled in on the scoresheet, rather than sound thinking.

With Flynn holding up one end admirably, there was scope to get a left-right combination at the crease that may have broken up Harbhajan's line.

As it was, the spinner was too easily allowed to dominate and McCullum was inevitably left to nurse the tail, something he did quite brilliantly on his way to a confidence-boosting but ultimately shallow 84.

First he enjoyed a brief flurry with Vettori after Flynn (67) popped one up to short leg following 183 balls of gritty defiance. It is worth noting that these two, McCullum and Vettori, formed the most prolific partnership possible for New Zealand, with more than 5000 test runs between them.

Scroll back to day two when Dravid and Tendulkar were together, with their combined 23,000 test runs worth of experience, for a snapshot at the fundamental difference between these two sides.

Vettori looked largely untroubled reaching 21 before he got his bat and pads in a tangle and gave Harbhajan his fifth wicket and his first bag against New Zealand.

"He talked about that [on Friday] night," Indian captain MS Dhoni said, lauding the efforts of all his bowlers. who he believed consistently bowled in the right areas.

He was full of praise for the Little Master, Sachin Tendulkar, too, saying a better-paced innings would not be seen anywhere.

O'Brien blocked, blocked some more, squirted and occasionally swept his way to 14 before being on the receiving end of Simon Taufel's third poor decision of the match. Referral system anybody?

Faced with 20 runs between himself and his first test century against a nation other than Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, and with the sight of Chris Martin ambling to the crease, McCullum decided to open his shoulders, hitting Yuvraj Singh to the midwicket boundary before popping one straight up in the air.

Needing 39 to win, Gautam Gambhir and Rahul Dravid put on a brief clinic, their efforts and those of McCullum and O'Brien's, surely giving New Zealand's top order pause for thought.

So New Zealand look no closer to dragging themselves from eighth on the ICC rankings. Their captain knows it's where they belong.

SCOREBOARD

First test between New Zealand and India at Hamilton.

NEW ZEALAND

(First innings 279)
Second innings (overnight 75-3)

McIntosh c Tendulkar b Khan 0
Guptill c Sehwag b H Singh 48
Flynn c Gambhir b H Singh 67
Mills lbw b Patel 2
Taylor c Sehwag b Patel 4
Ryder lbw b H Singh 21
Franklin c Patel b H Singh 14
McCullum c Laxman b Y Singh 84
Vettori c Dhoni b H Singh 21
O'Brien c Gambhir b H Singh 14
Martin not out 0

Extras (1b, 3lb) 4

TOTAL (all out, 102.3 overs)279

FOWs: 0, 68, 75, 110, 132, 154, 161, 199, 275, 279.

Bowling: Khan 28-7-79-1, Sharma 22-7-62-0, Patel 17-2-60-2, H Singh 28-2-63-6, Y Singh 7.3-2-11-1.

INDIA

(First innings 520)
Second innings

Gambhir not out 30
Dravid not out 8

Extras (1b) 1

TOTAL (for 0 wickets, 5.2 overs)39

Bowling: Martin 3-0-17-0, Mills 2.2-0-21-0.

India won by 10 wickets, lead three-test series 1-0.

Man of match: Tendulkar.

- Herald on Sunday

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