New Zealand hit by the double injuries of Brendon McCullum and Jesse Ryder finished the truncated first day’s play at Nagpur on a poor 148 for 7. This was after New Zealand had won the toss and elected to bat first after the third and final Test Match at the VCA Stadium in Jamtha got underway very late around 12:30 PM due to wet outfield conditions. Sreesanth and Ishant Sharma get the credit of causing the damage to the New Zealand batting taking two wickets each.
After a delayed start of more than two hours, everything except the toss went wrong for the visitors. First it was Brendon McCullum pulling a back strain just before Vettori was gearing up for the toss. McCullum therefore was pushed down the order from his opening position which disturbed the entire batting line-up. In the 7th over, Sreesanth hit the seam around middle to get late movement which induced a thin edge off the backfoot from Martin Guptill (6) for a catch to MS Dhoni. The other opener Tim McIntosh got a beauty from Sreesanth which nipped away through the bat pad gate to crash onto the exposed off stump. McIntosh failed to get his backfoot across to cover his off stump to leave New Zealand off to a poor start at 16 for 2 in 8.4 overs.
Ross Taylor, who was due for a big score began positively with Jesse Ryder before a lazy forward stride which went nowhere outside the crease caused his fall to a Ishant Sharma inswinger. Ishant had just changed ends for his second spell after drinks and it was a perfect length to allow the ball enough air to swing into the reckless Ross Taylor (20) in the 15th over. Kane Williamson followed Taylor back in the hut just five balls later for a duck when he patted a flighted yorker from Pragyan Ojha in the air off the bottom of his blade to Sehwag at extra covers.
India was right on top with New Zealand at 43 for 4 when Skipper Daniel Vettori walked in. A couple of bouncers were dished out to Vettori and he looked out of sorts, taking his eyes off the ball or looking to play the aggressive pull shots without quite judging the bounce and line. Vettori fell quickly after a 6-ball stay playing one of those rash pull shots off Ishant Sharma dragging it off the inside edge onto the woodwork as the Kiwis slipped to 51 for 5. New Zealand went to Tea at 72 for 5 in 26 overs with Ryder looking solid.
After the Tea Break, India got an easy wicket when Gareth Hopkins edged a turning ball from Pragyan Ojha to second slip. That forced an unfit Brendon McCullum to walk in with his team at 82 for 6 in 28 overs. Meanwhile Ryder had also aggravated his calf muscle injury which kept him away from bowling in the previous tests. It became so bad that he could only walk his runs. Same was the case with McCullum who was also immobile and everytime the ball went to the deep it was either a boundary or a single only! New Zealand missed out on so many easy singles from the infield and the otherwise obvious twos and threes in the outfield because of these two batsmen!
However as long as Ryder and McCullum stayed in the middle, there was enough probability of a counter attack which could New Zealand towards 250 atleast. Luckily for India, Harbhajan Singh joined the party in the 48th over to have Ryder uppishly cutting him into the hands of Raina at extra covers. It was the second low catch for Raina in the day who had previously caught Hopkins in the slips. Jesse Ryder bad batted well but for his injury, scoring 59 from 113 balls with 5 fours. His partnership with McCullum was worth 42 runs. McCullum (34* from 80 balls with 3 fours) saw the rest of the day with Tim Southee (7* from 31 balls) as the Kiwis ended the day at 148 for 7 in 56 overs.
Both Sreesanth and Ishant Sharma looked menacing as they got the movement in the air and off the pitch. Both the pacers cracked up healthy speeds of nearly 140 kmph on a regular basis. Sreesanth would have got his third wicket as well but for Umpire Nigel Llong not picking up an outside edge off Brendon McCullum in an attempted cut shot. Pragyan Ojha had a good day as he mixed his flight efficiently and with Harbhajan Singh got the ball to turn pretty well on this first day itself. Harbhajan was not at his best though as he bowled on the shorter side.
The pitch has so far showed that it is on the drier side and that should be conducive for both spin and early reverse swing. Both the teams made a change each to their line ups. For India, Ishant Sharma filled in for the injured Zaheer Khan while New Zealand gave debut for left arm pacer Andy McKay who replaced Brent Arnel.