Bangalore: Ross Taylor hit a magnificent century that embodied the phrase ‘leading from the front’ to steer New Zealand to 328 for 6 at the end of the first day of the second Test against India at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore. This was the first day on tour that New Zealand ended with an advantage over India, and they had Taylor, their captain, to thank.
Taylor played second fiddle to Martin Guptill early on, consolidated once Guptill departed, used the post-lunch session to launch into the Indian attack, and departed shortly after the final one began. It was in the second session that Taylor showcased the full range of his hitting prowess, with every Indian bowler taken for runs.
He began that session with four boundaries from one Pragyan Ojha over. The third one took him to a half-century off just 46 balls, and almost took off Virat Kohli’s head at extra-cover before thudding into the fence. More carnage followed, with Zaheer Khan slapped to the cover boundary and driven straight down the ground, Ashwin taken for runs and a wayward Umesh Yadav played comfortably all round.
He had begun the day by winning the toss and choosing to bat first. It was a brave call, under cloudy skies and on a pitch that had a tinge of green to it. More so because New Zealand’s batting had looked their weaker suit in the first Test in Hyderabad.
The decision seemed to backfire almost instantly, with Brendon McCullum falling to Zaheer Khan in the second over of the match without a run on the board. The first over had been bowled by Pragyan Ojha, the first time that an Indian spinner had done so in a Test.
Zaheer, who had gone wicketless in Hyderabad, continued to be impressive and was denied a second wicket when Martin Guptill was dropped in the tenth over. Zaheer induced an edge that was flying straight to Suresh Raina at second slip, only for Virat Kohli to dive in front of him from third slip and spill the chance. Kohli had had an extended slip-catching session with Duncan Fletcher, the India coach, on the eve of the match. There too, he had failed to hold on to a few chances, and unfortunately for him and India, that trend continued in the Test.
Guptill survived the rest of that over from Zaheer after a few nervy moments, and then capitalised on his fortune. He took heavy toll of Yadav, and batted fluently to reach a half-century off 62 balls. Ojha, who kept things tight at his end, had already seen Guptill survive two close calls – an outside edge going wide of Virender Sehwag at first slip and a confident leg-before shout turned down – but he had his reward, getting both Kane Williamson and Guptill to leave New Zealand 89 for 3.
Guptill squandered a start once again to be out for 53, clipping one to midwicket, while Williamson made just 17. That brought about New Zealand’s best phase of the day, with Taylor associating with Daniel Flynn in a 107-run stand that spanned just 18.5 overs. New Zealand had gone in to lunch at 108 for 3 in 29 overs, but they started the second session with a flourish – 88 runs plundered off the first 13 overs, as Taylor did the bulk of the damage.
The stand was broken when Flynn, perhaps influenced by how his captain was taking on the bowling, attempted a sweep off Ashwin and fell for 33. It was the third time in three outings that Flynn had fallen in the same fashion.
Flynn’s exit slowed down the pace of scoring, and James Franklin then played a nothing shot to be athletically caught by Suresh Raina off Ojha. But Taylor wasn’t to be denied a seventh Test hundred. He cut Ojha to third man and was given a warm reception by the sparse crowd, whose affection for him, after three seasons with the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League, was on show throughout the innings.
Ojha, the most consistent Indian bowler on show, did get his reward, trapping Taylor in front shortly after tea for 113. If India thought that they could get the New Zealand tail out cheaply after that, they were served a wake-up call by Kruger van Wyk, the the diminutive wicketkeeper. van Wyk became the third New Zealander to get to a half-century, taking full toll of some sloppy bowling in the final session. He was well supported by Doug Bracewell in an unbroken half-century stand for the seventh wicket.
Yadav had started the day by bowling in the low 80s and by his fourth over he even touched 90 mph, but his radar was off, and he was consequently taken for plenty of runs.
India took the new ball an over after it was available, but play was stopped for bad light after just three balls, half an hour before the scheduled close. New Zealand had every reason to be satisfied with 328 for 6, 12 more runs than the victorious Australians managed in 2004.
Ojha ended the day as the best bowler with 4 for 90, but with New Zealand showing impressive signs of revival, the other bowlers will need to tighten up far more on the remaining days to maintain India’s grip on this Test series.