Cricket: Top order undone by Indian spinners

A new coach, a change in philosophy and a buzz in the camp - none of that has rectified a faltering top order and a side that struggles against spin.

New Zealand slumped to 106-5 at stumps on day two of the first test against India in Hyderabad, 332 runs short of their hosts' total and with little light at the end of the gloomy tunnel that is their batting order.

Pragyan Ojha and Ravichandran Ashwin, with 20 tests between them, combined to dismiss all five New Zealand batsmen in the day's last session.

Ojha removed a typically over-aggressive Brendon McCullum in his first over, the eighth of the innings, and Ashwin sent Martin Guptill packing with his first ball.

That was in the 10th over and the duo - aside from brief cameos from part-timers Virender Sehwag, Suresh Raina and Sachin Tendulkar - proceeded to bowl in tandem for the remainder of the afternoon, 32 straight overs of spin. They'll probably pick up where they left off today.

And why not? Aside from McCullum - who misplaced a cover drive after he had raced to 22 from 27 balls - and Kane Williamson - who tried to cut a ball far too full - the three other Kiwis were deceived.

Guptill and captain Ross Taylor were deceived by the turn of Ashwin, their attempted defensive shots resulting in fine inside edges taken by Virat Kohli at backward short leg.

That the catch of Taylor was debatable at best - replays were inconclusive as to whether Kohli grasped the ball before it touched grass - served only to cloud the issue.

The number of nicks that did find grass or the frequency of missed bats illustrate that. One of the latter resulted in Daniel Flynn's downfall after he attempted to sweep, a shot he had previously looked assured playing, but was trapped in front.

Bright spots were hard to come by. The resistance of Williamson was broken shortly before stumps when he was caught at first slip off the bowling of Ashwin for a patient 32.

With James Franklin (31*) joined by Kruger van Wyk (0*) and with a long tail to come, it will take some effort to get near India's 438.

Which is a shame after the NZ bowlers toiled away manfully in difficult conditions to restrict India and keep their side in the match.

Jeetan Patel, in particular, couldn't help but feel frustrated after his work in pegging back the hosts was undone. Patel broke the 127-run partnership between Cheteshwar Pujara and MS Dhoni, dismissing both in the space of four overs.

He finished with figures of 4-100 from 41 overs in his comeback test, while Trent Boult was the pick of the seamers with 3-93.

NZ may now be cursing leaving out Tarun Nethula after toying with the idea of playing a pair of spinners.

- APNZ

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