Mahendra Singh Dhoni won one of the most important tosses of his captaincy career when he called correctly for the seventh consecutive time on this tour of New Zealand.
It was important simply because the pitch had a fair bit of grass, and if India were to bat first then it would have been a tough job to survive on a pitch where the ball was moving and bouncing awkwardly. Instead, by opting to field first he had the New Zealand batsmen searching for deliveries that moved around.
But for the two no-balls bowled by the Indians that reprieved Kane Williamson, New Zealand could well have been dismissed for under 150. Still, it was a tremendous performance by the Indian bowlers, as with the sun coming out hot and strong, the grass was burning and the pitch was losing the life it had in the session before lunch.
The manner in which Dhawan and Pujara batted after tea showed that if the weather continues to be sunny, then India have a very good chance of taking a lead and putting pressure on the hosts.
Ishant once again was the pick of the bowlers making good use of his height to get the ball to bounce and also the angle that he created with his right hand over the wicket against the left-handers.
Like India, New Zealand too have not had the best of starts with their openers failing once again. That puts an enormous pressure on the others following and that was clearly seen.
On a pitch like this, it was never going to be easy in these conditions, but the footwork of both the Kiwi openers leaves a lot to be desired and did not help them survive.
In fact, apart from Kane Williamson, the others look short of Test class. Of course, Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum have their own methods which have stood them in good stead so far, and it was the attacking mode that got the New Zealand skipper out when he drove at a ball that was not quite pitched up for the drive.
After lunch, the Kiwis came out with a plan to attack the bowlers and it succeeded to an extent as Corey Anderson belted the ball around, but it was hardly going to last.
Williamson also played some handsome shots and was the top scorer for the team, and it was the big hitting of Tim Southee that helped New Zealand get to the total that they did.
Zaheer may not have got a wicket under his name, but his presence on the field was invaluable as he was constantly guiding the younger Ishant and Shami. Hopefully his figures will be better in the second innings, for he bowled well without reward in this innings.
India need to show lots of patience and application for the first session, for the covers will help create a bit of moisture which can help the Kiwi bowlers.
Professional Management Group