| Sanjay Bangar celebrates the wicket of Lou Vincent on the opening day of the first Test Thursday
Wellington: Another disappointing beginning to a Test series away from home. Failing to negotiate the green top that was on offer at the Basin Reserve, India were bundled out for 161 on the first day of the opening Test match against New Zealand Thursday.
At stumps, New Zealand were 53 for one with Mark Richardson not out on 27 and captain Stephen Fleming was on 11 after opening batsman Lou Vincent was dismissed for 12. Sanjay Bangar was the only successful bowler, getting the opener to nick one down the leg to íkeeper Parthiv Patel.
It was a tough day for India after Sourav Ganguly lost the toss and was asked to bat by Fleming on a pitch that had a lot in it for the New Zealand pacemen.
The Indian innings, however, was marked by an outstanding effort by Rahul Dravid (76). Coming into bat in the second over after Virender Sehwag was cleaned up by Daryl Tuffey, he stood among the ruins to lend some sort of respectability to the visitors as wickets fell like nine-pins around him.
The 29-year-old held the innings together and was the tenth man to be dismissed, playing outside a Scott Styris delivery. He innings comprised 172 balls, laced with 13 fours. The loss of Dravid spelt the end of the Indian resistance, though some last wicket slogging from Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra pushed the visitors past 150.
Zaheer was the last wicket to fall when he parried a rising Shane Bond ball behind Jacob Oram, who leapt to pluck the ball out of the air, juggled it once and then re-gathered the ball to end the innings. Earlier, Tuffey and Oram, who had to bowl into the wind, restricted the aggressive Indians with some tight bowling.
Tuffey after dismissing Sehwag, had Sanjay Bangar, controversially caught at slip when the ball clearly looked to come off his arm-guard. Sri Lankan umpire Ashoka De Silva, who gave a torrid time to the Indians during the home series against West Indies, was once again the culprit.
Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar then looked to counter-attack and take the battle to the Black Caps. Dravid drove Shane Bond through cover and then and cut Tuffey to the fence before Sachin smashed Oram to the fence twice in one over.
But the Little Master misjudged a ball in Oramís next over when he shouldered arms and was hit just above the kneeroll to be given out leg-before by De Silva for eight, leaving the Indians at 29 for three.
Sourav lived dangerously throughout his innings. He was dropped on two by Fleming at first slip when he got an edge high on the bat off a Bond delivery and then by Astle at second slip, again off Bond, when he was on 17.
But Bond induced the Indian captain into another edge that flew to Vincent in the gully in the last delivery before the lunch break. After going to lunch at 51 for four, the afternoon session began with a wicket in the first over from Bond when V.V.S. Laxman was caught behind by wicketkeeper Robbie Hart for a second-ball duck.
Dravid then figured in a 37-run sixth-wicket stand with Pathiv Patel (eight), which ended when the young keeper cut a ball too close to him into Vincentís lap at third slip.
Ajit Agarkar was the next to go for 12 when he was caught at second slip by Nathan Astle off Styris. The ball was wide off the off-stump and the shot could easily have been avoided by Agarkar. However, Harbhajan Singhís dismissal in the very next ball, was inexplicable to say the least.
A trap was set up for him with a deep-square leg positioned for a mistimed hook shot and the offie obliged straight away. Such injudicious shot selection by his partners left Dravid, who was playing a flawless innings at the other end, absolutely stranded.
Zaheer denied Styris the hattrick, though only because his nick fell just short of Vincent in the slips before he and Dravid saw India through to the tea break at 126 for eight.
Scorecard on Page 24