David Leggat: Spinners get ideal opportunity to tweak their art in Indian conditions

By David Leggat

Dan Vettori receives the ball from a team-mate. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Dan Vettori receives the ball from a team-mate. Photo / Jason Oxenham

New Zealand's relationship with its test spinners has been mixed down the years.

The standard arrangement has had one primary spinner in a seam-dominant attack, whether he be Hedley Howarth, the fine, durable left armer of the 1970s, John Bracewell or Stephen Boock, - but rarely both together- in the 1980s, and Dan Vettori from 1997 until 2014.

A second slow bowler has often been employed as a kind of support performer. Think either Bracewell or Boock, Paul Wiseman alongside Vettori or, on one unmemorable occasion, Peter Petherick paired with Howarth, at Eden Park against Australia in 1977. Australia made 377 and the two spinners shared nine overs out of 97 in a 10-wicket flogging.

New Zealand's use of three spinners at Kanpur was intriguing for its rarity, and that they chose one more than the hosts, who've never been tardy in throwing a pile of spin bowlers into a test.

In 1988, India opened with a brisk offspinner Arshad Ayub to decisive effect at Bangalore and he had legspinner Narendra Hirwani, and two left armers, Ravi Shastri and W.V. Raman with him.

Going into that match, New Zealand were pondering whether to use one or two spinners. They plumped for Bracewell and Evan Gray; India picked four and once they won the toss and batted, the game was up. The New Zealand pair took three for 281 in the match; Ayub alone had figures of 83.4-33-104-8.

However, this is not the first time New Zealand have used three genuine spinners in a test - as distinct from two and a part timer.

At Nagpur in 1969, Howarth, Victor Pollard, a flat, parsimonious offspinner, aggressive batsman and electric fielder, and a second left armer, Bryan Yuile, all played at Nagpur. The result: the first of New Zealand's two wins in India, a fine victory by 167 runs with the three sharing 17 wickets.

In the hope this might prove unfounded, New Zealand needed to win the toss and bat first to get the full benefit of the Mitch Santner, Mark Craig and Ish Sodhi triumvirate as the Green Park pitch wears in the coming days. Day one gave them turn, albeit slow.

For the trio, this is shaping as an important learning arena.

None of them have played tests in India. It's all very well turning up and expecting the pitch to do everything. The bowlers need to use variety, guile, patience and give the batsmen nothing. On the first three counts, they did pretty well; but they did leak soft runs through being too short or too full. Against batsmen such as Cheteshwar Pujara with his quick feet, that will be punished.

There's no question the education of the three will be significantly enhanced by the time they board the plane for home.

- NZ Herald

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