Wriddhiman Saha remained unbeaten on 54    AFP
Wriddhiman Saha remained unbeaten on 54 AFP

The memories of South Africa’s tour of India 2015-16 are still fresh. Spin bowlers opening the bowling and digging inroads in the batting line-up. This part of the world is all about ‘dust’ and ‘spin’. Being a pacer felt like having a job of ice cutter in Dubai. Then came Eden Gardens, the most notable cricket ground in India. Hosting a Test after three years, the conditions presented seemed alien-like. How on earth could pacers end up with 7 wickets in an innings. While the Day One morning was all about New Zealand bowlers bowling at right channels and taking seam movement to their advantage, the second morning saw Kiwi bowlers dish out bouncers as Wriddhiman Saha combated them with ease.

The highlight of second morning was Saha’s resistance, who scored remained unbeaten on 54. His knock consisted of seven boundaries and two sixes. In fact, he started off with a six on Day One. Not a bad way to start your account at your home ground where you are playing your first Test. Saha has the toughest job. Replacing MS Dhoni is no mean feat and Saha once again rose to the occasion and played a brilliant hand to rescue India. He displayed patience, grit and skills to prevail over the hostile Kiwi bowlers, who tested him quality seam bowling and short balls. Winning the toss and batting first, Indian managed to put on 316 in the first innings.

“Conditions in Eden Gardens favour pace bowling in the first and third session. It is easy to bat in the second session when the sun is out. Batsmen should be cautious in first two sessions,” said VVS Laxman in the commentary box. Who knows the conditions at Eden Gardens better than Laxman, the man who has amassed 1,217 at 110.63 at this venue.

New Zealand bowlers must be credited for bowling in the right channels but weren’t Indian batsmen being overtly aggressive at times. Many of the shot selections defied logic. The trend continued on Day Two as well. Ravindra Jadeja, who was looking to stitch an important partnership with Saha, fell to a short ball. Why? He wanted to execute something that his captain Virat Kohli could not in the Kanpur Test. The machismo got better of him. Neil Wagner got him to hook straight to the deep fine-leg fielder.

Earlier, Shikhar Dhawan went for a non-existent cut, dragging it back to the stumps, Virat Kohli paid for his over aggression. Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane were the lone bright spots for India on Day One. Their fourth wicket stand of 141 helped India salvage some pride. But both batsmen threw away their wickets and did not go on to get the well-deserved hundreds.

“Pujara and myself will take this blame, because we were set. He got out on 87, and I got out on 77. I think it was our responsibility to carry that partnership forward. See batsmen just need one ball to get out, but I think if between the two of us, if one had made a hundred, maybe our position would have been different. I can’t blame anyone else,” said Rahane after Day One’s play.

No hundreds from Indian batsmen in three innings in this series highlights the fact that batsmen have not been patient enough to make the starts count. The wickets have been good to bat on if you applied yourselves.

All of the New Zealand bowlers picked up wickets. Matt Henry claimed 3, Trent Boult, Neil Wagner and Jeetan Patel chipped in with 2 wickets each while Mitchell Santner claimed his only wicket on Day 2.

After starting the day at 239 for 7, with Kiwi bowlers making the new ball talk, India will be reasonably happy with their score of 316. The cracks on the surface have opened up and New Zealand are minus their captain and best batsman Kane Williamson. The spin bowlers will come to play as the sun is out and in Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami, they have two quality seams who can exploit the seaming conditions.

Brief Scores:

India 316 (Cheteshwar Pujara 87, Ajinkya Rahane 77, Wriddhiman Saha 54*; Matt Henry 3 for 46, Trent Boult 2 for 46) vs New Zealand.

Full Scorecard

(Suvajit Mustafi consumes cricket for lunch, fiction for dinner and munches numerous other snacks throughout the day. Yes, a jack of several trades, all Suvajit dreamt of was being India s World Cup winning skipper but ended up being a sports writer, author, screenwriter, director, copywriter, graphic designer, sports marketer, strategist, entrepreneur, philosopher and traveller. Donning so many hats, it s cricket which gives him the ultimate high and where he finds solace. He can be followed at @RibsGully and rivu7)