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Bowlers get a good workout

Whangarei: India’s faltering cricketers found some rhythm as they reduced New Zealand XI to 262/9 declared on the opening day of a two-day practice match, which was skipped by the big guns of the team, including skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

In reply, the Indians scored 41 for no loss in 14 overs. New Zealand XI had declared after 78 overs.

The Indians got what they would have wanted out of the first day of their practice match. The New Zealand XI batsmen lasted long enough to give the Indian bowlers a six-hour workout on a nice batting wicket.

After a dismal ODI series that was surrendered 0-4 to New Zealand, the Indian team enjoyed a good outing at the Cobham Oval, albeit in a non-competitive match.

For India, Dhoni and Virat Kohli were missing as they stayed back in Auckland, enjoying some rest after a hectic ODI series. Rohit Sharma is leading the side in their absence.

Ravindra Jadeja was the third player missing from action, although he did travel with the team to Whangarei.

As it happens in such two-day practice matches, 11 players from each side were stipulated to bat or bowl.

India’s Test specialists who flew in this past week — Zaheer Khan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Murali Vijay, Umesh Yadav and Wriddhiman Saha — were all included in the playing eleven.

Meanwhile, Mohammad Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar were not listed to bowl, but came on for fielding duty as a couple of Indian batsmen spent some time practising in the nets as well.

New Zealand XI’s captain Anton Devcich, the lone player in the squad to play for the national side, won the toss and elected to bat first, after 97 overs were stipulated to be bowled each day.

Openers George Worker and Robbie O’Donnell put on 81 runs for the first wicket, as the hard work for Indian bowlers seemed to carry over from the ODI series.

O’Donnell, captain of the New Zealand Under-19 team for the upcoming World Cup, warmed up with a nice half-century, scoring 80 runs (124 balls, 13 fours).

Ravichandran Ashwin (2/45) provided the breakthrough and then Zaheer (1/42) removed skipper Devcich cheaply, before another little partnership worth 57 runs came up between O’Donnell and Jono Hickey.

Their partnership was broken post-lunch by Ishant Sharma (2/58), who dismissed O’Donnell for 80 runs (124 balls, 13 fours).

It opened the floodgates as wickets started falling at regular intervals after that. Ishwar Pandey came on to bowl after the first hour of play and was the pick of the Indian bowlers thereafter, scalping 3/42 in 14 overs.

It was his first proper outing on this tour so far, and he didn’t look rusty at all. He bowled a consistent line and length, earning just reward for his effort.