1st Test, Day 1: Profligate Indians let Kiwis off the hook
Auckland: India frittered away the early advantage as Brendon McCullum and Kane Williamson smashed brilliant centuries to lead New Zealand`s spirited fightback and take the opening day honours in the first cricket Test on Thursday.
New Zealand reached a position of strength after a disastrous morning session to finish the day on 329 for four at the Eden Park here. Skipper McCullum (143 batting) and Corey Anderson (42 batting) were in the middle at the close of play.
McCullum, who slammed his third ton against India and his eighth Test century overall, reached the three-figure mark with a towering six off Ravindra Jadeja, while Williamson (113) hit his fifth Test ton with the help of 10 boundaries and a couple of sixes.
New Zealand`s cause was helped by four dropped catches and inconsistent bowling under pressure by the visitors as the duo of Williamson and McCullum put on a 221-run stand for the fourth wicket to lift the hosts from a precarious 30 for three.
After being sent into bat under overcast conditions conducive to seam bowling, New Zealand could manage only 54 runs in the pre-lunch session losing both their openers, Peter Fulton (13) and Hamish Rutherford (6), and in-form batsman Ross Taylor (3).
But Williamson and McCullum swung the first day in New Zealand`s favour by adding 125 runs in 27 overs in the post-lunch session.
The sensational fightback has put the Kiwis on top in the first Test after their resounding 4-0 win over the visitors in the just-concluded one-day series.
The Indian bowlers attacked in a bid to take wickets, but gave away runs easily considering the short boundaries. Ishant Sharma (2-62) was the pick of the bowlers, reaching his 150-wicket mark in 54 Tests.
Zaheer Khan (2-98) pitched in with two wickets, while Mohammad Shami (0-66) was unlucky to finish empty-handed despite bowling good spells throughout. Jadeja (0-81) proved ineffective on the hard and bouncy pitch, while Rohit Sharma (0-12) and Virat Kohli (0-4) turned their arms over as well.
Starting their 149-run partnership after tea, Williamson and McCullum went about continuing their dominance of the Indian bowling. They did so by bringing up their respective hundreds, with the captain first to get to that mark.
In the 58th over, McCullum hit Jadeja down the ground for his first six to reach his hundred in style. He got there in 135 balls, also hitting 16 fours in the process.
Two overs later, Williamson first brought up their 200-run partnership and then his own hundred off 138 balls, cashing in on a dropped chance when on 32.
Williamson had edged a seaming delivery from Shami, but Murali Vijay dropped a sitter at first slip much to Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni's dismay.
Vijay also dropped an edge from McCullum, who scored quickly and batted through the two sessions.
McCullum was also dropped on 102 when Shikhar Dhawan failed to judge a looping catch at short fine-leg and the skipper made the Indians pay a heavy price for the reprieve.
Both the batsmen continued unabated until the 69th over, when finally Zaheer got Williamson to glance one down leg and edge it to the keeper, ending his long-haul partnership with McCullum.
McCullum was undeterred though, and put on another 50-runs with new batsman Anderson quickly, with the score also hopping across the 300-
mark in the 82nd over.
India taking the new ball had no effect whatsoever as 150 run came in the final session of play. The two batsmen remained unbeaten at the end, putting on 78 runs for the fifth wicket.
Earlier, McCullum looked to repair the damage from the morning session and re-build the innings with Williamson. Wind carried away the cloud cover from the morning and finally the sun came out as prominent swing from the morning session vanished.
Williamson hit two sixes, the first in the 33rd over, when New Zealand were placed at 102/3, and the second in the 38th over, reaching his fifty. At the other end, McCullum brought up his fifty in the 43rd over, as also their 100-run partnership. In doing so, he carried the team-score past the
150-mark as well.
In the morning session, Dhoni won his sixth straight toss on this tour, and opted to bowl first in optimum conditions. The visitors did not make any changes to their eleven that played against South Africa in Durban. Similarly, the hosts did not make any either to their eleven that played West Indies in Hamilton.
Fulton and Rutherford took first strike, even as Shami and Zaheer bowled at lively pace and beat the batsmen on more than a couple of occasions. In fact, the former was very lucky to survive as long as he did, continuously troubled by all Indian bowlers. He should have gone back, first on the seventh ball of the innings, with Zaheer inducing an edge but Dhawan dove in front of second slip and spilled the chance.
Fulton got another life 11 runs later when umpire Richard Kettleborough did not raise his finger on a plumb LBW decision in the ninth over bowled by Shami. He eventually got out for 13 runs, when Zaheer trapped him in the 13th over.
At the other end, Rutherford was brilliantly set up by Ishant in the 10th over earlier, with the batsman fishing outside the off-stump on more than one occasion. After four balls, the bowler finally found an edge as Ajinkya Rahane completed a superb diving catch at gully.
That was not the end of New Zealand's woes, with Taylor looking to play his shots from the very beginning, despite a difficult pitch. It did not pay off, as he drove Ishant on-the-up and Jadeja completed a stunning catch at short mid-off, leaving the Kiwis reeling at 30/3.
Williamson and McCullum then saw off the 25 minutes before lunch without any further loss, with the 50-run mark of the innings coming in the penultimate over of the session bowled by Jadeja.