Bangalore: Majestic, entertaining and pulverising... Ross Taylor’s remarkable innings of 113 has sparked life into the two-Test contest.
Riding on self-confidence, the New Zealand captain took the attack to the opposition. His aggressive batting style, combined with beautiful strokeplay, helped the visitors to gain an early initiative in the final Test.
Building on the foundation laid by Taylor, wicketkeeper-batsman Kruger van Wyk (63 batting) scored at a brisk pace to take the total to 328 for six before bad light ended the first day’s play, resulting in the loss of 9.3 overs, at the Chinnaswamy, here on Friday.
Kruger, perhaps, enjoyed the generosity of India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. After the departure of Taylor just after tea, Dhoni could have put more pressure on the lower order batsmen by placing more attacking fields. Instead, he allowed the batsmen to settle down by resorting to defensive tactics.
While Dhoni played on defensive lines, it was an all-out attack from his counterpart, Taylor, earlier in the day. He clobbered the Indian bowlers all around the park, putting all doubts to rest by scoring the seventh century of his career. He cut Ojha for a boundary to bring up his century.
Taylor looked invincible. After a somewhat edgy start, when he nudged and pushed quite a few times, he settled comfortably.
To his credit, he used the slog sweep against the spinners to score plenty of runs. He spanked Ojha for four boundaries in an over while his straight drive off the bowling of Zaheer Khan in the next over was a treat to watch. With such waves of attack, the strategies of the Indian bowlers and captain got washed away. The bowlers, at times, tried to experiment, especially altering their lengths, but it seemed that Taylor had prepared for all kinds of situations.
Zaheer Khan started off well, asking questions with his probing deliveries outside the off-stump. The first spell of Zaheer also yielded the wicket of the dangerous Brendon McCullum. But he lost control as the day progressed.
The other pacer, Umesh Yadav, cut a sorry figure as he was wayward from the beginning. His figures of 12.3-1-71-0 will give you enough ideas about his unimpressive bowling.Among the spinners, Ojha was the most impressive, picking up four wickets with the flighted deliveries.
And when the bowlers were threatening to run through the New Zealand lower order, they found an unlikely hero in the form of Kruger. He showed amazing temperament as he handled the pacers and spinners with élan. If the visitors could show the same spirit and resilience on the second day, there could be more misery in store for the hosts.
However, everything was going according to India’s plan in the morning session.
Although the conditions were breezy and overcast, much to the liking of the visitors, it were the hosts who gained an upper hand as they scalped three wickets. It was so gloomy at times that the floodlights were switched on in the eighth over of the day.
New Zealand came out with a definite plan, and played with positive intent. But they suffered an early jolt in the second over of the day when McCullum departed without scoring a run.
However, with the ball coming on to the bat nicely, it was not difficult for Martin Guptill (53) and Kane Williamson (17) to strike a partnership of 63 runs.
It was Ojha — who also became the first Indian spinner to open the bowling in a Test — who removed Williamson with a beautifully flighted delivery that bounced a little to trap the batsman in front of the wicket.
Guptill, dropped by Virat Kohli off Zaheer’s delivery, went on playing aggressively, hitting three spectacular boundaries off a Yadav over. But he paid the price for being too ambitious.
Trying to loft Ojha over mid-wicket, he holed out to Gautam Gambhir.
Apart from a brilliant Suresh Raina catch to dismiss James Franklin (8), the Indians were also sloppy on the field.
Second day’s play starts at 9.00 am