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Cricket: 'Perfect' batting wicket has Black Caps flummoxed

An Eden Gardens wicket that hinted at being perfect for second and third day batting has left New Zealand flummoxed after two days of the second test.

They are 128 for seven in reply to India's 316 as variable bounce, skidding pace and dipping confidence took hold in skipper Kane Williamson's absence.

The visitors exceeded expectations on the first day in oppressive heat, as occurred in the first test at Kanpur, but could not sustain their performance when they donned the pads.

Matters were not helped by the arrival of forecast rain as Kolkata experiences what a local scribe described as the "season of the retreating monsoon". In the ground's 40-test history across 82 years, this is the first time a match has started in September. Weather intervened for approximately one session.

Indian pace bowlers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami made the most of New Zealand's vulnerability with their 140km/h line-and-length pace.

Kumar earned the majority of the spoils with five wickets for 33, but Shami, with one for 46, helped minimise the room for visitor misjudgment. Something had to give as result of such pressure.

Ross Taylor (36) and Luke Ronchi (35) compiled 62 runs for the fourth-wicket after coming together at 23 for three.

Williamson excepted, Ronchi has looked New Zealand's most capable batsman across the two tests with his laissez-faire approach.

He felt accurate bowling rather than technical deficiencies contributed to their downfall.
"It was probably more of a seamer's wicket than anticipated, they [Kumar and Shami] bowled in areas where we needed to play. Some stayed low and skidded more than we thought. The procession of wickets was just a case of bad timing against the seamers.

"You can't do anything about variable bounce. You've just got to get it out of your head. Yesterday saw a series of head and chest height balls, but today they stayed lower."

Kumar seized the chance to play on what's usually an oxymoron, a seamer-friendly Indian wicket.

"I wanted to make full use of it," he beamed in a post-stumps interview. "When I saw that the wicket would help me, I told myself I want to take five wickets. It was one of my dreams to do that in India."

The synergy between the crowd and Indian players also made the atmosphere intimidating to bat in.

"You could see Virat [Kohli, the Indian captain] geeing the crowd up, and that's a good thing," Ronchi said.

"He was getting the noise behind his team and that made it feel like a cauldron. You knew you were in for a tough fight walking out there. Sometimes that can affect your role and game plan."

However, Ronchi said the rain break "didn't make any difference" to the New Zealand team.

"The only annoyed person was probably me for getting out the ball before it all happened."


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