Black Caps made to pay for greentop pitch

THE DESTROYER: India's Ishant Sharma starred with 6-51 yesterday as New Zealand were rolled for 192.
THE DESTROYER: India's Ishant Sharma starred with 6-51 yesterday as New Zealand were rolled for 192.

In conditions made to order for the hosts, their visitors gatecrashed the party and made off with the cake.

Now, New Zealand face their most crucial two hours of the home summer at the Basin Reserve this morning to peg back a test cricket series that slid from their grasp yesterday.

India, with flamboyant, combative opener Shikhar Dhawan racing towards a second successive century, resume on 100-2, trailing New Zealand by 92 after an all-action first day in the sun.

Only in the last half-hour before stumps did New Zealand's pacemen, particularly Trent Boult, get it right. On his favourite sward, Boult got it swinging and bowled full and fast, trapping Cheteshwar Pujara and then so nearly removing player of the day Ishant Sharma next ball, padding up.

More calm, fine weather is forecast for the next two days and the pitch is improving rapidly, so Boult and Tim Southee will hope the Kookaburra continues hooping around and they can make some inroads.

"It was a good challenge batting first on it and it was nice to scrape together a scrappy sort of total.

"We're going to have to bowl better but there's still plenty there," New Zealand's top-scorer, Kane Williamson, said.

"We showed that the ball's still swinging, so there's certainly the threat there if the boys can put it in the right areas often enough."

Otherwise, it will be a huge second innings for New Zealand's batsmen, minus kingpin Ross Taylor, to save the test and close out a series victory after their 40-run win in Auckland.

New Zealand's call for green seamers against India six weeks ago had merit but that depended on winning the toss and India's bowlers being off the pace like the West Indies were. Far from it. There was an inevitable feeling when Indian captain Mahendra Dhoni correctly called heads for the seventh time in as many matches and all his opposite, Brendon McCullum, could offer was a wry grin.

New Zealand made 441 after being inserted by West Indies in December but there was more in this harder strip that was last used for a test in 2008 against Bangladesh.

This was not a good toss to lose, like some this summer. India's pacemen, their tails up after dismissing New Zealand for 105 in Auckland, got the ball to swerve both ways and to nibble and bounce.

It was always going to be difficult early but the Black Caps know the Basin eventually flattens out and it required some hard graft for two sessions. They lasted just past tea, skittled for 192 in 52.2 overs.

Their previous lowest first innings total this season was 349 against West Indies in Hamilton.

Sharma looked out on his feet during the one-day series but a bit of grass, pace and bounce have transformed him, and he now has 15 wickets from three innings.

In a blistering first spell, he took three in 14 balls and New Zealand were exposed.

Peter Fulton has one more innings to prolong his test career after he plonked his front foot out and across. Hamish Rutherford and debutant Tom Latham were startled by short-pitched offerings, the latter's test debut lasting eight balls. The slide was on.

"Feels strange watching the test from home," Taylor tweeted as he awaits the birth of his second child in Hamilton.

New Zealand badly missed his runs and steadying influence. McCullum looked up for the fight, as he was in Auckland, but inexplicably drove on the up on the stroke of lunch.

Corey Anderson, the Indian Premier League's $870,000 man, played a curious hour-long innings where he tried to bash his way out of trouble before a cross-bat swipe.

There was plenty on Kane Williamson's shoulders and he showed how it was done, playing late and low-risk, and taking a few amidships. He had luck from two no-balls which he edged, then after 170 minutes of toil his luck ran out.

Another debutant, Jimmy Neesham, looked composed and drove strongly but he tried to withdraw the bat and touched an edge.

Some Tim Southee swipes got them within sight of 200 but whether that is enough will be clear midway through today.



Day one of the second test at the Basin Reserve, Wellington.


First innings

P Fulton lbw b I Sharma 13
H Rutherford c Vijay b I Sharma 12
K Williamson c R Sharma b Shami 47
T Latham c Dhoni b I Sharma 0
B McCullum c Jadeja b Shami 8
C Anderson c Kohli b I Sharma 24
B Watling c R Sharma b I Sharma 0
J Neesham c Dhoni b Shami 33
T Southee c Vijay b I Sharma 32
N Wagner not out 5
T Boult c Pujara b Shami 2

Extras (lb 2, wd 8, nb 6) 16

Total (52.5 overs) 192

Fall: 23, 26, 26, 45, 84, 86, 133, 165, 184, 192.

Bowling: Zaheer Khan 17-3-57-0 (1w, 2nb), M Shami 16.5-4-70-4 (2w, 1nb), I Sharma 17-3-51-6 (3nb), R Jadeja 2-1-12-0.


First innings

S Dhawan not out 71
M Vijay c Watling b Southee 2
C Pujara lbw b Boult 19
I Sharma not out 3

Extras (b 4, wd 1) 5

Total (for 2 wkts, 28 overs) 100

Fall: 2, 89.

Bowling: T Boult 9-4-18-1, T Southee 7-0-20-1, N Wagner 7-0-36-0, C Anderson 3-0-14-0, J Neesham 2-0-8-0 (1w).

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