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Ind vs NZ 1st Test: New Zealand Seamers Deliver Thrilling Win

By on February 9, 2014

New Zealand 503 (McCullum 224, Williamson 113, Ishant 6-134) and 105 (Ishant 3-28) beat India 202 (Rohit 72, Wagner 4-64) and 366 (Dhawan 115, Wagner 4-62, Southee 3-81) by 40 runs

The New Zealand seamers kept their wits against an Indian side that was hell-bent on achieving the tallest chase in the country and secured a thrilling 40-run win in Auckland. A fourth-innings century from Shikhar Dhawan, a solid 126-run stand between him and Virat Kohli and an unexpected counter from Ravindra Jadeja kept the game alive. But Neil Wagner, menacing in every spell he bowled, picked up four wickets, including Dhawan and MS Dhoni, to help New Zealand take a see-saw Test and hand India their 10th overseas defeat in 11 Tests.

Ind vs NZ 1st Test:Brendon McCullumIndia had come within 139 runs of a record win with six wickets in hand when the second new ball was taken. What transpired in the next 16.3 overs was less of cricket and more of a boxing match, with both teams throwing punches and counter-punches to knock each other out.

New Zealand jabbed first. Trent Boult trapped Ajinkya Rahane lbw with the first delivery he bowled with the new ball and Tim Southee lured Rohit Sharma with a perfect outswinger in his first. Within the space of seven balls, New Zealand had control of the match back after a long hard toil. However, India were not going down without a fight.

Jadeja had not done much wrong in the Test and he continued in the same vein with the bat. The first ball he faced was punched down the ground with a shot that oozed class. He even held the pose for a considerable time, appreciating the shot. But that was the only classical shot he played before shifting into Twenty20 mode.

Jadeja drove a length delivery from Southee over mid-on for his second boundary, then came the upper-cut in the same over for his third. In Southee’s next over, he charged down the pitch and flat-batted a length ball down the ground. The umpire was lucky that the ball flew past his left. He then launched Boult over long off for another six.

MS Dhoni was playing shots of his own. He smashed four boundaries off Boult and the partnership between the two bulged to 54 in 34 balls, bringing the target down to 83. From what seemed like a boxer throwing blind jabs, upper cuts, hooks and crosses at an opponent while going down, India were managing to do some serious damage.

Jadeja’s brief stay ended the way it had lasted as he failed to clear mid-on. In response, Dhoni shunned his aggression. Zaheer Khan, though, threw the bat whenever the bowlers allowed him to free his arms and hit a six and a four in the point region.

Wagner, in his first dig with the new ball, made Zaheer hop with a short of length delivery that the batsman could only edge to first slip. An over later, Dhoni chopped a slower bouncer from the same bowler on to the stumps, effectively ending the match. Boult just provided the final push that brought India crashing down.

The frantic finish was in contrast with the slow build both teams had gone through in the first two sessions. The conditions on the fourth day were markedly different from the third, with the air much drier. It meant that the swing that created problems for the batsmen on the third morning didn’t make an appearance for most parts of the day. The only time it did, it was when Southee was in operation.

Southee stuck to impeccable lines and managed to extract just enough movement to put doubts in the batsmen’s mind. The one ball that did something extra fetched him the wicket of Cheteshwar Pujara in the fifth over of the morning. Bowling from wide of the crease, Southee got the second ball of his third over to lift and seam away appreciably from a length. Pujara, playing from the crease, could only edge it to the wicketkeeper.

Southee then ensured Kohli didn’t get an easy start as he bowled 28 consecutive deliveries at the batsman giving away just nine runs.

Meanwhile, Wagner kept the typically aggressive Dhawan quiet at the other end. Dhawan was content on defending everything in line of stumps and left most of the wider deliveries. Only 34 runs were scored in the 14 overs in the first hour of the play. It was almost a case of who would blink first.

The second hour though proved to be a release for the batsmen as Southee, after a spell of 7-3-11-1, tired out. Kohli then broke the stalemate with consecutive boundaries off Wagner – a check drive that raced through extra cover followed by a pull on a short delivery that lacked zing. He reached his half-century off 80 balls.

Together with Dhawan, Kohli added 126 to bring the target under 200, but had a lapse in concentration as he attempted a pull at a wide Wagner delivery. Wagner, in a tireless 10-over spell with the old ball, made the big strike when he removed Dhawan with a sharp bouncer from round the wicket.

Dhawan had shown remarkable discipline in the morning session and had made slow progress to move into the nineties. Ish Sodhi didn’t pose the same threat as the New Zealand seamers and Dhawan used the chance to race to his second century with a six and a four. However, New Zealand chances surged once Dhawan was dismissed. The new ball hastened New Zealand’s rush to their first Test win against India in 12 years.

Devashish Fuloria is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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