18 Mar 2009

India on top despite New Zealand fight back

8:22 pm on 18 March 2009

Daniel Vettori and Jesse Ryder both struck centuries to lead a New Zealand fight back in the first test against India at Hamilton on Wednesday.

Vettori completed his third test hundred with a superb captain's knock of 118 while Ryder registered his maiden test ton with 102 to rescue New Zealand from a disastrous start and post 279 on the opening day at Seddon Park.

India, in reply, were 29 without loss in their first innings at stumps at the end of an absorbing day with Virender Sehwag unbeaten on 22 and Gautam Gambhir not out on six.

India have not won a test series in New Zealand for more than 40 years but thrashed the Black Caps in the one-dayers and could hardly have made a better start to the first of three tests.

The tourists would have been in an even better position had Vettori and Ryder not batted through the entire middle session, adding 186 for the seventh wicket after India's fast bowlers had demolished the New Zealand top order.

Ishant Sharma captured three wickets in a devastating spell before lunch then polished off the innings when he dismissed last-man-out Ryder after tea.

Munaf Patel bagged three wickets, including Vettori then Kyle Mills for a golden duck to be on a hat-trick, while Zaheer Khan triggered the top-order collapse with two early wickets to vindicate Mahendra Singh Dhoni's decision to field.

Top order collapse

New Zealand could not have made a worse start on a placid pitch, losing six wickets before lunch.

Opener Martin Guptill was dismissed for 14 on his test debut, deflecting a good length ball from Khan to Rahul Dravid at third sip.

Daniel Flynn edged down the legside to wicketkeeper Dhoni without scoring in Khan's next over and the paceman was unlucky not to get a third when Sehwag dropped a straight-forward catch at gully off Ross Taylor in the same over.

Taylor and Tim McIntosh briefly steadied the innings with a 23-run partnership before both fell to Sharma as the Indians sensed a quick kill.

Sehwag made amends for his earlier spill when he safely held a catch off McIntosh on 12 then Sharma bowled Taylor for 18.

Sharma collected his third wicket when James Franklin was given out caught behind for a duck although television replays showed the ball flicked his pad and not his bat.

Patel then chipped in to get rid of Brendon McCullum for three when the New Zealand vice-captain presented the slips cordon with another chance that Vangipurappu Laxman snapped up.