New Zealand recovers from a wobbly start

Auckland, Feb 6: Half-centuries from skipper Brendan McCullum and Kane Williamson stabilised the New Zealand innings at tea against India on the first day of the first cricket Test at the Eden Park here Thursday.

McCullum (71 batting) and Williamson (79 batting) dominated the proceedings in the second session during which the Kiwis scored 125 runs and reached 179 for three in the first innings at tea.

McCullum and Williamson put on 149 runs for the unbroken fourth-wicket stand that helped New Zealand recover from a precarious start when they lost the first three wickets for 30 runs.

The New Zealanders, who were put in by India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, were rattled by double strikes from fast bowler Ishant Sharma in the first session and were left struggling at 54 for three at lunch.

In the post-lunch session, Williamson and McCullum dominated the Indian bowlers and were also helped by the scratchy fielding.

Williamson on 32 was dropped by Murali Vijay at first slip off Ishant. It was the only blemish by the Kiwi batsmen in what was a fine innings. It was the sixth consecutive time Williamson crossed fifty during the summer and reached it with a hooked six off pace spearhead Zaheer Khan.

McCullum was unimpressive at start as he went hard at the ball but then took time to settle down. He also got to his half-century in 86 balls with an off drive off Zaheer.

Earlier, on a gloomy morning, Indian pacers made the best of the seam-friendly conditions and Ishant picked up two wickets including that of New Zealand’s best batsman Ross Taylor (3).

After a 15-minute delayed start, New Zealand lost both its openers Peter Fulton (13) and Hamish Rutherford (6) in what was a tricky first hour of the game.

Fulton survived an early chance when he was dropped in the slip cordon in the fifth over, but then got under way with two good on-driven boundaries off Zaheer Khan.

Fulton also survived a close lbw appeal from pacer Mohammad Shami but wasn’t so lucky when Zaheer rapped him on the back pad after changing ends.

At the other end, Rutherford kept chasing everything outside the off stump. And Ishant who struggled during the ODI series, finally found his form in favourable conditions and extracted good bounce to trouble the batsman.

Ishant forced Rutherford (6) to play outside off and he was brilliantly caught by Ajinkya Rahane at gully, as New Zealand slumped to 23-2.

With New Zealand in dire straits the onus was on the pair of Taylor and Williamson, who were in great form during the ODIs. But this time, Taylor faltered badly with his timing and Dhoni attacked with a packed slip cordon, leg slip and short leg. Ishant forced Taylor (3) to drive and Ravindra Jadeja held a sharp chance at mid-off.

IANS