India escaped by the skin of their teeth in Napier. But it also threw up an innings that was a test of character.
Gautam Gambhir has to be one of the brightest young stars of world cricket. He can be daring on his day and in dire situations, adapt to the job on hand.
As history suggests, such a combination doesn’t come easy. Long hours and heady strokes don’t go hand in hand. Either you fall in a passive groove or your adrenaline is in such a rush that every delivery must go to the fence. Gambhir is as hot in Twenty20 as he is in Test cricket.
Much as the batting trinity of Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and V.V.S. Laxman contributed — Laxman’s approach today at the outset was first class, as runs were also important — it still needed a binding force, a bigger contribution for all this to matter. Gambhir provided that thrust and continuity from the other end. He saw off two new balls, which was absolutely critical on a wicket of this nature.
New Zealand did all in their power to draw level.
They batted with purpose and the bowling in the first innings was precise. They showed what pressure could do to even a good side such as India. However, the strip was too true and the rivals’ batting too solid to fail for the second time.
Only four wickets in two days of toil ought to be a deflating experience.
New Zealand are now very close to losing their first series to India in 41 years. Unless the Basin Reserve Park in Wellington is dramatically altered off its present reputation.