By Chetan Narula
Whangarei (New Zealand): Feb 2, 2014
India’s faltering cricketers found some rhythm as they reduced New Zealand XI to 262 for nine declared on the opening day of a two-day practice match which was skipped by big guns of the team including skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
In reply, the Indians were placed at 41 for no loss in 14 overs after New Zealand XI declared in 78 overs in the only practice game ahead of the two-match Test series starting February 6 in Auckland.
After a dismal One-Day International (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. 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 for 45) provided the breakthrough and then Zaheer (1 for 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 for 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 three for 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.
Hickey held the innings together, scoring 45 runs off 85 balls (seven fours), even as wickets fell at the other end.
Ashwin and Ishant picked up their second wickets, while Umesh Yadav (1 for 70) took one as well, with the hosts losing five wickets for just 60 runs after O’Donnell’s dismissal.
Roald Badenhorst threw his bat around at the other end taking the score past 250-mark before the hosts chose to declare with 14 overs to spare in the day.
Indian openers Shikhar Dhawan (16 not out) and Murali Vijay (19 not out) weren’t troubled too much as they closed out the play without any loss.
New Zealand XI 262 for 9 decl. (Robbie O’Donnell 80, Jono Hickey 45; Ishwar Pandey 3 for 42, R Ashwin 2 for 45) lead India 41 for no loss (Murali Vijay 19*, Shikhar Dhawan 16*) by 221 runs.
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