Wellington, New Zealand
NZ don’t really play enough tests to get their eye in, and this is the second and final test. Nonetheless, they won the first, scoring over 500, bowling India out for just over 200 the getting skittled for just over 100 and scraping a win by 40 runs. I wasn’t sure what to expect-India ought to be too strong, but their teamsheet is a little unfamiliar, with no real stars in the bowling, and the batting looking to rely on Pujara, Kohli and Dhoni.
Tickets. I got the idea it would be cheaper here when I spotted that a day ticket was under $45. Even better, sign up early for half price tickets; buying a ticket within 5 days of them going on sale got a day one for $23. I couldn’t decide whether I’d want to go to one, two or three days, so got a match pass for $45. Credit card surcharge, $1.23, surcharge for whichever option I picked from at venue pickup, print your own or text – 0. Exemplary. The ground only has two stands, so half of the place has a steep grassy bank for general admission punters to pick a spot on. It wasn’t jammed, especially in the stands, but there were enough people that the odd cheer, and the collective groan when a wicket seemed to fall just before lunch was loud enough.
India won the toss and on a warm day – it was about 21 degrees, scorching when the sun broke through – with lots of cloud they put New Zealand in and had them in plenty of trouble. Taylor was out, Latham in at 4, and he was in and out before lunch.
Lunch: 51-4 from 26 overs. It would have been worse, with Williamson caught from the last ball before the break, but it was overturned for a no ball. The same was to happen later in the day to Neesham.
Runs flowed a little better after lunch, but more in a ‘slip back into one day mode’ than any test style accumulation. At least India didn’t have the same pressure as before lunch, when Sharma came on and bowled two wicket maidens, Zaheer kept it dry from the other end and Sharma’s run was broken not by him failing to take a wicket, but when he conceded a run in the over he took his third wicket. Notably, I was there on the day Williamson finally didn’t make it to 50, out for 47.
Kiwi fans next to me seemed surprised that Sharma, with 5 wickets, had no slips when he returned just before tea. But he was bowling to Southee, who isn’t a man to play gently down the line, and as he swung and missed through the over, surely the thinking was pretty clear.
Tea: 166-8 from 49 overs, the run rate soared and the over rate dipped, with only three bowlers used until Jadeja bowled the last before tea.
After some more big bangs from Southee, NZ were out shortly after tea for 192, Ishant Sharma taking test best figures of 6-51. Meanwhile the crowd to my left had brought flowers in and were occupying themselves – on Valentines day – picking out lone women walking by the grassy bank to which general admission gets you access and handing them a flower. Cue applause from the bank. With the majority of an okay crowd on the banks, there were no Mexican waves, and just one token effort to get a beach ball going. The old man behind me had a terrible attack of the fake laughs to whatever commentators on the radio were saying, and I was glad when he moved.
NZ took a wicket early, and one late, but at the close India were 100-2 and looking strong. The second debutant, Neesham – the other was Latham, Rod’s son – had looked a decent batsman at 8, and underplayed when listed as having pace ‘medium’. The speed gun’s readings weren’t used often, but 138km popped up next to him. I didn’t see enough to know whether they have genuine all rounders in Anderson and Neesham at 6 and 8, or more typical NZ bits and pieces cricketers. I took myself back to Paraparaumu, and a full hostel, with a new bag full of the clothes I had left at Justin’s, in Sydney. I have long sleeved clothes again.