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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Kiwis unable to turn dominant position into winning one

New Zealand 8/619 dec (154.4 ov, J Ryder 201, R Taylor 151,B McCullum 115,D Vettori 55, T Franklin 52) drew with India 305 (93.5 ov, R Dravid 83, VVS Laxman 76) and 4/476 dec(180 ov, G Gambhir 137, Laxman 124*, S Tendulkar 64, Yuvraj Singh 54*): T#2 at Napier.

I watched a lot of this game on TV (some but, despite the promotional puff, not all of which was shown live on Foxtel).

The match initially shaped like an Indian walkover as NZ, batting first, slumped to 3/23. Then a sometimes shaky Ross Taylor 151/ 204 b [26x4. 1 x6], and a more assured Jesse Ryder added 271 for the 4th wicket.

Nor did the revival stop there, as many observers of NZ cricket might have expected. Ryder added 121 for the 5th wicket with James Franklin, then another 62 for the 6th with Brendon McCullum before he was bowled for 201/328b [24x1, 1x 6]. 6/477.

And there was more. The next wicket didn't fall until the total had passed 600. McCullum, who notched his first Test century, a characteristically belligerent 115/140b [13x4] (only the absence of sixes was out of character), added 128 with Daniel Vettori before, mirroring the start of the innings 3 quick wickets fell until the declaration came at 9/619.

India's reply was lacklustre. 5 of the big 6 (Yuvraj Singh was the exception) got a start but the NZ bowlers worked their way through the batting. When Rahul Dravid was out for 83/206 (12x4) the tail didn't wag as the score plummeted from 4/246 to 305 all out.

With time slipping by NZ had no option but to enforce the follow on. Only Chris Martin had bowled more than 20 overs in the India first innings so the Black Caps looked a likely prospect for an unlikely win.

Yet it didn't happen. India rarely looked as if they wouldn't save the match. They plodded to 4/476 from 180 overs before play was called off. Gautam Gambhir (137/436b [18x4])and VVS Laxman (124*/ 212 [25x4]) made centuries while Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Yuvraj each passed 50. The NZ bowlers tried but the pitch didn't break up as they must have hoped.

Once again the Black Caps couldn't maintain their momentum for long enough to secure a win. They will be pleased at their showing against a strong opponent, but underneath they must be disappointed. If the match had been played out to a finish India might well have won. (That's enough speculation for now.)

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