David Leggat on sport

David Leggat is a Herald sport writer

David Leggat: More twists and turns in this test than a luge run

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For all the changes in the game, there's nothing like a test victory.

New Zealand bowlers Trent Boult (left) and Tim Southee celebrate a wicket yesterday. Photo / Brett Phibbs
New Zealand bowlers Trent Boult (left) and Tim Southee celebrate a wicket yesterday. Photo / Brett Phibbs

At lunch yesterday, India seemed in charge of the first test at Eden Park; one ball after tea it was New Zealand in the ascendancy.

An hour later India appeared to be rushing to victory, only for New Zealand to bounce back for a marvellous win.

There's plenty different between a T20 or ODI fixture and a test, especially one which has more twists than a luge run.

The rhythms of a test day are like no other form of the game.

Stop and start, pause and rush, control changing on a catch, or a bad over.

So it was yesterday as first one team, then the other poked their nose in front.

Much was at stake, more so for New Zealand, who had opted not to enforce a very enforceable follow-on when India trailed by 301 runs.

Seventeen wickets fell on a hectic Saturday; things were more measured yesterday, at least until late in the piece.

One wicket before lunch, three in the middle session before MS Dhoni and Ravi Jadeja went on a tear against the second new ball.

It was as if they determined there was no point allowing New Zealand to dictate terms; they wanted to get the job done without allowing the bowlers to drop into a pattern.

As the balance swung, so the sense of anticipation grew. Respect for India's batting strength was squared with the tingling prospect of a New Zealand victory.

"Who's going to win it?" came the call late in the afternoon.

Too close to call. Each time a grip was tightened, it would be loosened again until the closing overs.

The day after New Zealand's remarkable seven-run win over Australia in Hobart, Tasmania, late in 2011, a senior New Zealand player and this reporter had discussed the previous day's events while waiting to board the flight home.

The player was in no doubt; no amount of ODI success, no matter how thrilling, would ever match the emotions of that test win.

At Eden Park last March against England it came down to the last ball of the match, an equally gripping day.

These are the occasions when you realise, for all the change the game has undergone, the introduction of T20 and its gimmickry, how much test cricket, when played like this, really matters.

New Zealand missed the ultimate joy against England; they had it to savour last night.

- NZ Herald

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