If any proof was needed that good pitches provide good cricket, it has been given in the first two days at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore. The wicket has had something in it for the new ball bowlers, there has been spin for the slow bowlers and the bounce has been true for the batsmen to play through the line and get some runs. The cricket also has been tough, uncompromising and just what Test cricket should be.
No easy runs have been on offer and the New Zealand fielding has been electric and India have run quite well between the wickets especially Kohli, Raina and Dhoni. The Saturday crowd had quite clearly come to watch the big guns of Indian batting Sehwag, Gambhir and Tendulkar. They may have been disappointed that none of them stayed long enough, but the batting and the approach of Raina and Kohli, India's two young prospects would have compensated for that.
India were rocked by the new ball with the top four being sent back with just 80 runs on the board and they were clearly in trouble and it is here that the partnership between Raina and Kohli was invaluable as they not only steadied the tottering innings, but gave just the kind of platform that Dhoni likes to attack with the bat. Dhoni and Kohli are still together, with Kohli approaching his second Test century, but New Zealand also have the second new ball due first thing in the morning so it should be an interesting battle especially in the first session.
The manner in which the overnight pair of Van Wyk and Bracewell started it looked as if India would have a long day in the field, but Zaheer produced a top spell in which he snared Van Wyk into attempting a nudge through slips and then Bracewell was run-out backing up too far.
India then wrapped up the tail quickly. Gambhir was clearly thinking of his dismissal in the first Test where he had poked his bat outside the off stump and was caught behind so he shouldered arms to a ball on the off-stump which swung in a bit more and bowled him. Sehwag curbed himself and was settling down. He does not lean into the drive and the flick and the ball does go uppishly and that’s how he perished, caught brilliantly at midwicket.
The dismissal that was most disturbing was that of 'the master' when he was bowled through the gate by Bracewell. When a player of that calibre gets bowled then it has either to be a great delivery or just a one-off. It is here that a gap between international competitions tells especially when a player is in his late thirties. Tendulkar of course has the class and experience to turn it around and the more he plays the better his movements will be and who knows by the time England come here he will have batted enough to get big runs against them, but he would be disappointed at missing out against the Kiwis.
Sehwag also has now got two 40s, but has not been able to convert those into substantial innings and that too is not a great sign. India has lost two of its stalwarts Dravid and Laxman to retirements and so it is imperative that the experienced ones like Sehwag, Gambhir and Tendulkar get going otherwise India could well be in trouble against England who have a top class spin attack too.
Kohli's application and his patience have been most impressive and with the skipper also batting with determination India are not too far behind New Zealand. They must ensure that New Zealand don’t get the psychological advantage of the lead for India will be batting last on a pitch, which may not play as well as it has these two days.