New Zealand recover to take control in first test against India
Agence France-Presse in Auckland
Centuries for Brendon McCullum and Kane Williamson lifted New Zealand off the ropes and into a position of command on the opening day of the first cricket test against India.
Captain McCullum posted his eighth test hundred soon after tea on Thursday and Williamson followed two overs later with his fifth as New Zealand progressed to 329 for four at stumps.
Williamson was eventually removed for 113 and at stumps McCullum was unbeaten on 143 with Corey Anderson on 42 in a 78-run stand for the fifth wicket.
McCullum and Williamson came together when New Zealand were in trouble at 30 for three after being sent into bat on a bowler-friendly Eden Park wicket.
The heavy cloud cover and green-topped wicket were ripe for the Indian bowlers who made the most of the conditions and runs proved difficult to obtain as New Zealand struggled to reach 54 for three by lunch.
But when the sun broke through after the break and the track flattened out into a good batting strip, McCullum and Williamson stole the initiative away from India in a 221-run stand for the fourth wicket.
“It was tough initially, which you expect with the new ball and certainly it got very good to bat on after lunch,” Williamson said.
“They’ve got very good seamers and they showed that. They had us in a bit of trouble early on and it was nice to bat through that.”
Ishant Sharma, the pick of the Indian bowlers, doubted India could have done better once the sun came out.
“We were still bowling in the right areas but you have to give credit to the batsmen. The wicket got better as the day progressed,” he said.
Williamson notched his 50 with a top-edge for six and McCullum cleared the rope for his hundred when he belted Ravindra Jadeja over the long-off boundary as the paid batted with confidence.
McCullum’s innings so far contains 18 fours and two sixes while the more textbook approach of Williamson produced 10 fours and two sixes.
Both batsmen also took risks and offered chances. Murali Vijay at first slip dropped a sitter from Williamson on 32 and Shikhar Dhawan put down McCullum on 102.
Early in the day, Dhawan dropped Peter Fulton on one, although the damage was not as severe as with the McCullum miss as the New Zealand opener only made 13 before he was rapped on the pads by Zaheer Khan.
That was when the Indian pacemen were dominating as they found plenty of movement to trouble the batsmen.
Ishant Sharma was the first to strike when he teased Hamish Rutherford (six) with deliveries that angled away until the left-hander slashed and caught an edge which was well taken by Ajinkya Rahane in the gully.
Sharma also claimed Ross Taylor, who had provided the backbone of the New Zealand batting in recent months, but looked uncomfortable against the India quicks.
Taylor made three off 15 deliveries before driving Sharma to Jadeja at mid-off for an early return to the pavilion.
Sharma finished the day with two for 62 while Zaheer Khan proved expensive with two for 98.