New Zealand went from slick to sluggish as a promising position against India eased from their grasp in the first cricket test in Hyderabad.
Having won the toss, the hosts reached 307-5 at stumps on day one, leaving New Zealand only marginally behind but ruing what could have been a far better day at work - had they kept their standards high.
With Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman both retired, and the great Sachin Tendulkar skittled for 19 by a gem from Trent Boult (2-63), New Zealand's batting tormentor was waiting to emerge.
It was Cheteshwar Pujara, the 24-year-old from Rajkot, whose highest score from three previous tests was 72. Ably filling the big boots of Dravid at No 3, Pujara batted through for his maiden test century and punished the tourists for a sluggish first hour after tea. He batted all but the first 10 overs of the day for 119 not out, with skipper MS Dhoni with him on 29.
With the ball swinging in the haze, Trent Boult had New Zealand tails up when he nicked out Gautam Gambhir then returned to splay Tendulkar's stumps with a cracking inswinger. It was a memorable wicket from the man with the knack of removing big name players, but, disappointingly, the high point of the day for the tourists.
From 125-3, the wind went out of their sails and Pujara and Virat Kohli added 125 for the fourth wicket in the 33degC afternoon heat.
Recalled spinner Jeetan Patel toiled to stem the run flow, but heads drooped and the field was pushed back. Doug Bracewell, having earlier removed Virender Sehwag in full flight, limped off with leg cramps during his 11th over and wasn't sighted again at the bowling crease, leaving James Franklin as the third seamer with the omitted Neil Wagner and Tim Southee gnashing their teeth on the sidelines.
Senior paceman Chris Martin justified his recall with some tidy spells and finally snared his first wicket to break the partnership when Kohli wafted on 58. Then Patel (1-58), in his 21st over, was rewarded with his first success when Suresh Raina was strangled down the leg side.
After losing the toss, it was a forgettable day for captain Ross Taylor at first slip. Twice he watched edges fly between he and gloveman Kruger van Wyk, then he was too slow for a crucial low chance off home skipper Dhoni - from the second ball he received from Patel.
The tourists were also slow through their overs, considering Patel and Kane Williamson wheeled down 31 overs of spin. Three of their allotment remained unbowled after an extra half-hour.
Some variable bounce on day one will also cause some concern for New Zealand's batsmen as they eye India's spinners, Prgyan Ojha and Ravichandran Ashwin, later in the match.
A bolstered New Zealand batting lineup, with Brendon McCullum back to his rightful spot opening, will need big improvements from their West Indies tour to repeat their draw at this ground two years ago when McCullum banked a double-century.
Scoreboard at stumps on day one of the first test between New Zealand and India in Hyderabad:
G Gambhir c Van Wyk b Boult 22
V Sehwag c Guptill b Bracewell 47
C Pujara not out 119
S Tendulkar b Boult 19
V Kohli c Guptill b Martin 58
S Raina c Van Wyk b Patel 3
MS Dhoni not out 29
Extras (b-6, lb-3, w-1) 10
Total (for five wickets) 307
Fall of wickets: 1-49 2-77 3-125 4-250 5-260
Bowling: Martin 18-2-60-1, Boult 16-2-63-2, Bracewell10.4-1-53-1, Franklin 11.2-0-33-0 (1w), Patel 24-6-58-1,Williamson 7-0-31-0
- © Fairfax NZ News
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