If New Zealand had to prove that their fight in the drawn first Test was no fluke, they did it to the best of their abilities here on Friday. After winning a useful toss, the visitors absorbed most of what India’s bowlers hurled at them to have a marginally better share of the spoils on the second Test’s opening day.
The unresponsive nature of the pitch figured prominently whenever India spoke about their toil for wickets in the series opener. The pitch was good for batting here too, the hardness of the surface aiding greater bounce and pace, but it still needed steadfastness and hours of application from inexperienced batsmen to frustrate the hosts.
Leading the patient vigil from the day’s first ball, Tim McIntosh became the third man in the touring party to register a maiden Test hundred in India. The left-hander, who scored a pair in Ahmedabad, had to weather some lively early stuff from Sreesanth with Martin Guptill after losing Brendon McCullum in the day’s fourth over.
Dropped for the first Test, Guptill and McIntosh added 147 for the second wicket to show that despite having no experience of playing together in the den of the world’s No. 1 Test team, this New Zealand side is not short on character. So far, they haven’t been flustered by catchers around the bat and have shown admirable powers of concentration.
McIntosh epitomised these virtues. Slow off the blocks and reluctant to change gears even after playing himself in, the 30-year-old produced an effort in the classical mould. Blocking daylight between bat and pad and showing an astute sense of judgment about where his off stump was, McIntosh drove elegantly and hit the spinners over the top after two watchful sessions.
A second century in his 15th Test was a just reward although McIntosh might regret playing away from the body just once during his 254-ball innings. That meant India will get a newcomer at one end when their fast bowlers resume with a ball that is just four overs old.
Not incisive enough for most of the day, the Indian attack looked menacing for a brief period when Zaheer Khan and Sreesanth had the first new ball. Tail up after getting McCullum, Sreesanth got vicious movement with good bounce and found the edge again when Guptill was on five.
Umpire Kumar Dharmasena ruled Guptill out before calling him back, having verified with the third umpire that Sreesanth had overstepped.
Sreesanth hissed around the edge without luck a few more times and after surviving this period, McIntosh and Guptill found themselves in safer territory against the spinners.
Replacing Bradley Watling at No. 3, Guptill did most of the scoring. He drove with purpose and was not afraid to lift the spinners but like McIntosh, got out just when India were desperate for a wicket.
These two dismissals and the failures of McCullum and Ross Taylor meant that New Zealand will have to launch an effort to rebuild on Saturday, with India believing that a couple more will bring them right back.