Indian bowlers squander good start, Kiwis take control

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Auckland, Feb 6 (IANS) The Indian bowlers failed to capitalise on a good start as centuries from skipper Brendan McCullum and Kane Williamson helped New Zealand recover from 30/3 and reach a comfortable 329 for four after the first day’s play in the first cricket Test at the Eden Park here Thursday.

McCullum was batting on 143 while Williamson continued his fine run with the bat this summer with a classy 113. Giving company at stumps was Corey Anderson on 42.

It was great recovery by the Kiwi batsmen after a poor first session following a delayed start due to a passing shower and bad light.

On a gloomy morning, it seemed captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was spot on when he put New Zealand in as pacers brightened up the session for India.

India made most of the seamer-friendly conditions in the first session. Ishant Sharma (2-62) picked up two wickets, including that of New Zealand’s best batsman Ross Taylor (3), and Zaheer Khan (2-98) got one that left New Zealand at 30 for three.

But from then on Williamson and McCullum dominated the innings with their 221-run stand for the fourth wicket as the Indian bowlers fell flat in the next two sessions.

Williamson and McCullum took the attack to the Indians. They added 125 runs in the second session and also got to their respective fifties in style.

Williamson on 32 was dropped by Murali Vijay at first slip off the bowling of Ishant. It was the only blemish for the Kiwi batsman 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 Zaheer. In all, Williamson hit 10 fours and two sixes during his 172-ball knock.

At the other end, McCullum had a dodgy 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.

The Kiwi captain reached his eighth Test century and second at home this summer with a six off spinner Ravindra Jadeja.

McCullum took 135 deliveries to reach the century, three balls fewer than Williamson, who also got his fifth Test ton two overs later.

The partnership ended when Williamson tried to play Zaheer down the leg side only to be caught by Dhoni.

Earlier in the day, New Zealand lost both its openers Peter Fulton (13) and Hamish Rutherford (6) in a tricky first hour of the game.

Fulton survived an early chance when he was dropped at slip in the fifth over, but then got under way with two good on-drives.

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 for two.

With New Zealand in dire straits the onus was on Taylor and Williamson, who were in great form during the ODIs.

But this time, Taylor found the going tough and Dhoni attacked with a packed slip cordon, leg slip and short leg. Ishant forced Taylor (3) to drive and Jadeja held a sharp chance at mid-off.

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