The first day of the third Test between India and New Zealand was one of those rare days when supporters of both teams found reasons to cheer.
India made 375 runs in 90 overs. New Zealand took 9 wickets. India scored 185 runs in the post-tea session after being 190 for 5. New Zealand gave up 68 runs without a wicket in the first hour, and 185 runs in the last session and still managed to get the Indians almost all out.
The first day of the third Test between India and New Zealand was one of those rare days when supporters of both teams found reasons to jeer.
Ironically, take the second paragraph of this post and flip the perspective of the supporter and you will find the very reasons for anguish.
At this point in time, India has the advantage. New Zealand needs to win. In order to do so they have to not only overhaul the Indian total, but also score enough to put pressure on them when they bat second. Also, they need to do this at a fast rate.
Probably the worst thing for India was that they did not get all out at the close of play. On the second day, early on in the morning when there is enough swing available, the tail-enders will be wasting time trying to add more runs to the total. Let's assume that India gets all out in the first over of the day. New Zealand will need to bat all day and into the third day just to get a big lead. Based upon the way the pitch is behaving I don't think they can bat without losing wickets through the day, so it is going to be a tough task to expect the Kiwis to take a big lead.
I know one thing - MS Dhoni will not let them score at more than 4 runs an over. He does not mind looking ugly in order to get results.
Many folks around the world, especially in New Zealand, have been wondering why the hosts have prepared such batting-friendly pitches. I think the Kiwis know that the Indian bowling line-up is much better than their own and if given a juicy wicket the Kiwis were more likely to collapse. Secondly, this Indian batting line-up is clicking on almost all (barring Yuvraj) cylinders and are wiser for their experience in 2003.
Preparing bland pitches was not done to protect the Indians, it was done to protect the Kiwis. Day two promises to be a great one for followers of Test cricket. It's a shame, really, that India is not scheduled (as of now) to play any more Tests in 2009.
One parting shot - should India declare at the overnight score?