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McCullum, Williamson punish lax India

Centuries by both batsmen take New Zealand to 329 for 4, with McCullum batting on 143 at the end of day one

McCullum, Williamson punish lax India - Cricket News
Brendon McCullum (R) and Kane Williamson scored important centuries to take New Zealand to 329 for 4 at the end of the first day.
India looked a gift horse in the mouth on Thursday (February 6), going rapidly from hunter to hunted on day one of the first Test against New Zealand.
 
Right from the beginning, India had everything going its way at Eden Park. Mahendra Singh Dhoni won his sixth consecutive toss of the tour and promptly chose to bowl in overcast, murky conditions that delayed the start by 15 minutes. And despite not necessarily beginning strongly with the ball, India managed to make serious inroads into the New Zealand top order, reducing it to 30 for 3.
 
New Zealand had struggled to 54 for 3 in the first session, and ploughed on to 76 without further damage when came the defining moment of the day. It was a moment of sloppiness and lethargy out of place at this, or any, level. M Vijay at first slip, slow to react, put down the easiest of chances with Kane Williamson, on 32, poking at Mohammed Shami. Williamson punished India for Vijay’s largesse with a memorable century and put on 221 for the fourth wicket with Brendon McCullum, the captain and fellow centurion. A first-day tally of 329 for 4 after being put in would suggest a position of great strength.
 
McCullum has lost every coin toss on this tour by India, and his luck didn’t change even though he had shed facial hair in an attempt to turn his fortunes around. As if determined to atone for not giving his bowlers an opportunity to have a go at the Indian batsmen in excellent initial conditions for quick bowling, McCullum played a wonderful hand in the company of the in-form Williamson to offset the early loss of Peter Fulton and Hamish Rutherford, the openers, as well as Ross Taylor, the other form batsman of the ODI series.
 
It was Taylor’s dismissal, caught at shortish mid-off on the drive off India’s best bowler of the day, Ishant Sharma, that made the total 30 for 3 and gave India the undoubted upper hand. The batsman who had made hundreds in his last two innings was nowhere in evidence as Taylor appeared edgy and out of sorts. Perhaps, he was somewhat flummoxed by the lack of pace off the pitch which put his timing off; perhaps, he was somewhat preoccupied, what with the birth of his second child imminent. For whatever reason, Taylor wasn’t in any touch but India wasn’t complaining, its decision to field first completely vindicated and Shikhar Dhawan’s drop at third slip off Zaheer Khan’s first ball of the series to let Fulton off a distant memory.
 
Mohammed Shami had begun well in the morning, wobbling the ball around, and Zaheer fell into reasonable rhythm. But India didn’t look taking a wicket until Ishant was introduced. There wasn’t too much swing, even if there was a hint of seam and some bounce. Ishant struck with his fifth ball, having Rutherford smartly taken at gully by Ajinkya Rahane with one that got big on the batsman, before Zaheer accounted for Fulton two overs later.
 
With Taylor too departing before lunch, Williamson and McCullum began a period of careful consolidation even as India kept up its disciplines. Post lunch, though, the plot went horribly wrong for India, Vijay’s catch triggering off an atrocious bowling phase that saw boundaries come by the bagful with Zaheer, surprisingly, the worst culprit.
 
As badly as India bowled, no praise can be too high for the manner in which Williamson and McCullum batted. Williamson, of course, is in such glorious form that he can do no wrong. Favouring neither one side of the wicket, nor front foot or back, he played beautifully all around, his punches off the back foot as easy on the eye as his driving down the ground as the pitch eased out and the bowling flattened out even more.
 
McCullum was a little sluggish at the start, but once he warmed up with three boundaries on the trot off Ishant immediately after Williamson was spilled, he upped the ante and raced away. India bowled way too short, testing the bounce at friendly pace and being smashed to smithereens as it leaked runs in the second session. Zaheer went for six fours and a six in his six overs after lunch, and with the lead bowler disappearing for plenty, the rest followed suit. All three of India’s quicks were also way down in pace, Shami well short of 140 kph as the day wore on and Ishant no more than flirting occasionally with the 130 kph mark as New Zealand amassed 125 in only 27 overs in a brazen display of counter-punching in the day’s second session.
 
India’s cause wasn’t helped by Ravindra Jadeja’s generous diet. The left-arm spinner went at five to the over for large periods as Williamson donned his dancing shoes and McCullum went deep into his crease to pull powerfully. Dhoni was helpless in stopping the bleeding as his bowlers bowled on both sides, and the fourth-wicket pair gratefully, gleefully cashed in to bring more than 5000 fans at the ground to their feet.
 
McCullum was the first to three figures, with an enormous six off Jadeja over long-off. Having gone three years without a hundred, this was the New Zealand captain’s second in four Tests, his eighth century a timely reminder that he has plenty left in the tank yet. Williamson, coming off five successive 50s in the ODI series and with scores of 74, 62, 45, 58 and 56 in his last five Test innings, soon followed suit with a delightful inside-out cover drive.
 
Ragged and utterly deflated, India was thrown a lifeline when Williamson was unfortunately strangled down the legside to end an entertaining stand of 221 at excellent pace. Corey Anderson survived a torrid start to bed down while McCullum, who had gone an hour since his century without hitting a boundary, found a second wind late in the evening as New Zealand took full toll of a tired, dispirited Indian attack who found no joy with the second new ball either.

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