Cricket: NZ seam bowlers come of age

By Kris Shannon

New Zealand bowler Tim Southee. Photo / AP
New Zealand bowler Tim Southee. Photo / AP

New Zealand's test series against India has so far been an exposition of their strengths and weaknesses.

The bane of the batting line-up was laid bare and beaten into submission in the first match in Hyderabad, when the hosts' spinners took 18 of 20 wickets to fall.

And the batsmen's spin struggles could have again proved their undoing on the first day of the second test in Bangalore, were it not for innings of real quality from Martin Guptill, Kruger van Wyk and, in particular, Ross Taylor.

Today, for the first time all series, the most proficient part of tourists' test team was allowed to flourish.

The Black Caps' seam bowlers did just that to seize the early initiative and have their side dreaming of their first victory in India in 24 years.

But as the day wore on and the young arms tired, the hosts' middle order resurrected their innings and progressed to 283-5 at stumps - leaving the match wide open with India 82 runs behind and three days still to play.

"With the new ball, it's nice to bowl and he had it swinging, so we were lucky to pick up a few wickets there,'' Tim Southee said. ``Then India came back well after lunch as the ball got a bit older.''

The rearguard action prevented what was threatening to be a dominant performance from Southee, Doug Bracewell and Trent Boult.

The pace attack had shown glimpses of promise in the embarrassing opening to the tour, with Boult's three wickets highlighting an industrious effort on an unforgiving pitch for pace.

But with clouds in the sky, a little grass on the wicket and a healthy 365 runs to play with, M Chinnaswamy Stadium gave the strength of this team a real opportunity to show their wares.

After New Zealand's lower order were able to add only 37 runs to their overnight tally, Southee and Boult opened the bowling with more fire and brimstone than the home side's pacemen have shown all series.

Boult beat Gautam Gambhir's bat in the first over to set the tone, then Tim Southee came agonisingly close to removing Virender Sehwag with his first ball. Southee and his fielders were convinced he had trapped Sehwag in front, and replays appeared to agree, but umpire Steve Davis didn't, with height the only possible exoneration.

Boult would have removed Gambhir in his second over but for Brendon McCullum's mishap at second slip, but that mattered little as Southee clipped the opener's bail the very next over.

The Northern Districts pair appeared to be bringing out the best in each other, something Southee confirmed.

"I've played a lot of cricket with Trent through age-group and domestic. It's good to have those guys that you've bowled a lot with in previous years.''

In addition to his typical swing and late movement of the ball, Boult was consistently bowling in excess of 140km/h and even topped out at 145km/h _ a newfound pace that makes the 23-year-old even more venomous with the new ball.

His partner in crime soon removed Cheteshwar Pujara, India's batting hero in Hyderabad, as Southee sought to justify his selection ahead of veteran Chris Martin in his first spell with the ball.

Bracewell, the third member of the young triumvirate, then came into the attack to chip in with a brace of wickets. After Boult snuck one through Sachin Tendulkar's gate in the first test, Bracewell repeated the dose to again disrupt the Little Master's stumps, before picking up Sehwag to reduce India to 80-4.

But Suresh Raina, who made 55 before becoming Southee's third scalp, Virat Kohli (93no) and MS Dhoni (46no) combined to blunt the seamers in the afternoon session to leave the match in the balance.

Due early on day three, the new ball may make a difference and, after a good night's sleep, the seamers will relish another crack the the Indian batsmen.

"It's a pretty big period for us with the second new ball to see if we can pick up the rest of them,'' Southee said.

With the trio all in their early twenties and with even younger prospects like Adam Milne and Bevan Small waiting in the wings, to say the future is bright for New Zealand's seam bowling stocks would be an understatement.

And that's without even mentioning 26-year-old Neil Wagner, the ex-pat South African who has been the best bowler in domestic cricket for the last couple of seasons but has failed to break through the young brigade and into the test team.

The unlucky loser from such a glut of resources is Martin, the senior citizen of this group. He was dropped for the second test, the second time in three matches he has been demoted, and the end appears nigh for the 37-year-old who ranks third on New Zealand's test wicket ranks.

Martin has been a great servant to this country over the last dozen years, but the future is now.

- APNZ

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