A jubilant New Zealand team celebrates the thrilling 40-run victory over India © Getty Images
By Abhijit Banare
Feb 9, 2014
A thrilling final session on Day Four saw New Zealand clinch the first Test by 40 runs against India at Auckland on Sunday. Chasing 407, India were bowled out for 366. It was a roller-coaster fourth day with India showing enormous steel led by Shikhar Dhawan scoring 115. But the Kiwi pacers got the better of Indian batsmen.
It was the fabulous two days of Test cricket (Day Three and Day Four) which scripted one of the finest Test wins for New Zealand. Just one decision by skipper Brendon McCullum not to enforce follow-on after securing a 301-run lead on the third day changed the complexion of the Test. What unfolded in the next two days was an entertaining battle between the two teams. The Indian bowlers exceeded expectations to bundle out New Zealand for 105. An inspirational run-chase led by Dhawan’s second Test ton and lower order slogging turned the tables. Eventually, poor umpiring decisions and a fine use of new ball from the pacers changed the course of the match one final time in favour of the Kiwis.
India had resumed Day Four needing 320 more runs to win with Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara having already added a 51-run stand. India lost the key wicket of Pujara for 23 which further dented India’s chances. However, a matured innings from Dhawan (115) with a fluent Virat Kohli (67) once again put India on course for the chase. They moved along effortlessly until Kohli’s confidence did him in. In hindsight, his wicket just broke India’s momentum. Dhawan continued with his patient approach and some loose leg-spinners from Ish Sodhi allowed him to score briskly. Few overs before tea, Dhawan too departed failing to cleanly evade a nasty bouncer from Neil Wagner.
India’s spirited chase seemed to be falling apart when Ajinkya Rahane fell to a contentious decision as umpire Steve Davis adjudged him leg-before off Trent Boult’s bowling despite the ball hitting the pads off the inside edge of the bat. Nevertheless, New Zealand were delighted a the new ball had worked wonders right away. The match further tilted in their favour when Rohit was caught behind first ball after tea. In the next few overs, some well-timed slogs from Ravindra Jadeja and MS Dhoni changed the course of the match. India’s aggressive approach in chasing down the target kept hurting them as they lost wickets regularly. But it was Dhoni’s dismissal off Wagner which put an end to the drama. Despite replays showing Wagner was bowling wide of the crease with his right foot touching the outside of the crease.
While umpiring decisions may have robbed India their opportunities at critical moments, the New Zealand pace trio of Southee, Wagner and Boult made a huge difference in both the innings. Boult made early inroads in the first innings, Wagner played a critical role in cleaning India’s tail and more significantly striking with Kohli and Dhawan’s wickets when they were cruising along. Even keeper BJ Watling played a remarkable role by latching on to six catches in the second innings.
The Test started with Dhoni once again winning the toss. And looking at the green wicket and overcast conditions, he had no hesitation to choose to bowl. The pacers got off to a promising start removing three top order wickets for just 30 on board. But an inconsistent line and length of the pacers allowed McCullum and Kane Williamson to get away the initial nervousness. And to top it, Murali Vijay dropped a regulation slip catch when Williamson was on 32. The pair went on to add 221 runs and McCullum scored his second double century.
It was a fine performance from India in the second half of the match. But they will have to blame themselves for allowing the Kiwis to get away early in the match by piling on the runs. The batsmen failed to apply themselves in their first innings and squandered the opportunities.
Eventually, the records will show that India’s dismal run away from home, as this is their 10th defeat overseas. The next Test will be played at Wellington from February 14.
New Zealand 503 (Kane Williamson 113, Brendon McCullum 224, Corey Anderson 77; Ishant Sharma 6 for 134, Zaheer Khan 2 for 132) & 105 (Ross Taylor 41; Mohammed Shami 3 for 37, Ishant Sharma 3 for 28) beat India 202 (Murali Vijay 26, Rohit Sharma 72; Trent Boult 3 for 38, Tim Southee 3 for 38, Neil Wagner 4 for 64) & 366 (Shikhar Dhawan 115, Virat Kohli 67; Tim Southee 3 for 81, Neil Wagner 4 for 62) by 40 runs.
Man of the Match: Brendon McCullum
(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)