Two mildly surprising decisions and one unexpectedly large partnership dragged the game different ways before India asserted themselves at the end of the first day's play of this three-Test series. Mahendra Singh Dhoni decided to keep the faith with Munaf Patel, and then chose to put New Zealand in. Like so many of Dhoni's other decisions, these two were justified, to varying degrees as India bowled out New Zealand for 279 and then cruised to 29 for no loss.
It was a case of their being just enough cloud cover, and sufficient moisture in the pitch to make things happen. It helped that Ishant Sharma found swing early on and Zaheer Khan was experienced enough to hit an appropriate length straight up.
Martin Guptill, opening in his first Test, provided the tentative start, edging to slip for Rahul Dravid to equal Mark Waugh's Test record of 181 catches. Zaheer then had Daniel Flynn strangled down leg side to bring up his 199th Test victim, and could easily have become the third Indian quick bowler (Kapil Dev 434, Javagal Srinath 236) to pick up 200 wickets. Ross Taylor obligingly drove at one away from his body but Virender Sehwag could not hold the chance at gully.
Ishant then took over the bowling from the Northern end, and with it wicket-taking duties. Tim McIntosh provided Sehwag with an easier offering and the dangerous Ross Taylor played around one from Ishant and was bowled off his pad.
James Franklin was adjudged caught behind off pad and Brendon McCullum, batting at No. 7, gave Munaf the first of his two successes of the day. At 60 for 6 two unlikely left-handers Daniel Vettori and Jesse Ryder came together and took it upon themselves to change the way the game was headed.
As the afternoon sun beat down on Seddon Park conditions for batting improved and Ryder and Vettori took full toll. While Ryder was unlike his ODI avatar, he wasted no time in putting away the loss balls, executing some gorgeous drives on the up when he committed to the shot.
Vettori chanced his arm initially, playing edgily towards the vacant gully region, but soon the ball began to come sweetly off the middle of the bat. Vettori batted more than three hours for his third Test hundred, only offering one difficult chance, edging Harbhajan Singh to slip, and had added 186 for the seventh wicket when Patel got one to fly off the inside edge into Dhoni's gloves.
Another mini collapse ensued leaving an edge Ryder in the 90s with only the tail for company. Finally, with only the last man for company, Ryder took things into his own hands, clubbing Ishant over square-leg to bring up his maiden Test hundred, only to fall off the very next ball.
Virender Sehwag provided a preview of what could follow, merrily slapping the ball away to get India off to a breezy start. Given how things panned out, Dhoni won't even mind the Ryder-Vettori partnership too much. India were very much on their way.