Tests result: Kiwi kids are alright
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At the picturesque McLean Park in 2009, Dhoni sat quietly on the sidelines and watched Gautam Gambhir and VVS Laxman battle it out in tough, swingy conditions to salvage India a very famous draw. At some level, he must have wanted to be there with his teammates.
Napier, hence, was the first thought that crossed his mind at the Chinnaswamy Stadium on the damp and dark Bangalore evening on Monday when he became the most successful captain for India on home soil. This time around, he was there, right at the very end — pulling off a win that looked incredibly hard before he walked out to the middle.
Following his unbeaten 48, a knock amongst some gritty others that gave India the series 2-0, Dhoni would go on to say of the pitch that he "was expecting Bangalore, but it was like Napier."
It perhaps was.
Not just for the cold, windy and swingy conditions on a turfy pitch, but also because the Kiwis, led by Ross Taylor, often played like they were at home. In their own backyard. And for that Taylor should thank a set of young quicks who are bound to terrorise world cricket, sooner rather than later.
Three of a kind
Tim Southee (23), Doug Bracewell (21) and Trent Boult (23) are not household names yet. But they will be — as they accumulate the experience that comes with playing a little more than a cumulative sum of 36 Tests. That, though, is sure to happen in additions of three, considering their individual and combined performances in Bangalore over the past week.
In the absence of Daniel Vettori, the very soul of NZ cricket and a man with 112 Tests (roughly amounting to three times the amount of the pace attack in Bangalore put together), the bright-eyed kids held their own. Well, not in Hyderabad, but they sure did find their collective calling soon after.
Out of the 15 wickets that fell, this group of two right arm quicks and a left-armer in Boult took 12 of them. In the first innings, they nailed all ten. Southee claimed career best figures of seven for 64. No Kiwi had ever done that before on these shores. Also, only Sir Richard Hadlee had better figures for NZ against India (7/23) in the comfort of the spicy Wellington pitch in 1976.
Apart from just the sheer count of wickets, there were plenty of moments in the game that these pacers went uncredited for. One such moment, or phase, was the second spell bowled by Boult during India's chase. Having been dumped all over the park by the smoking willows of Virender Sehwag and Gambhir in his first spell (4-0-23-0), Boult was given a few overs to regain his composure. Playing just the sixth Test of his life, he showed terrific will-power to do so. And what a return it was.
With just a few minutes left for the end of the first session that India had clincially used to decimate NZ, Boult hurled in a nasty spell of three overs, going for no runs whatsoever while also dismissing Gambhir. Figures reading 3-3-0-1, Boult was clearly hungry for more. But so were the others, and lunch was taken.
There were many points that have been scrutinised and over-analysed from this Test series, none more than the dismissals of Sachin Tendulkar. While age, foot work and timing were spoken about aplenty, little credit was given to the balls that rattled him. However, Boult, Southee and Bracewell, who cleaned him up once each, will know just what caused his downfall. They themselves.
"It's an exciting time for New Zealand cricket, with these three fast bowlers around," Taylor said later. "We of course play half our games away from home where the wickets won't be as quick or bouncy. But whenever the opportunity presents itself (like in Bangalore) they will thrive in it."
The new era of NZ cricket has been rushed in almost overnight. Not in Bangalore, but in December last year when Vettori pulled out of the Hobart Test with a dodgy hamstring. In his place played debutant Boult, and on his behalf, a 20 year old unknown workhorse called Bracewell claimed a career best of 6/40 to stop the Australians by seven runs.
That match was a watershed for New Zealand, as none of their sides had won on the other side of the Tasman sea in 26 years. The latest worthy pace attack had been formed in world cricket and almost symbolically (for Dhoni), they went and crushed Zimbabwe in their next game, which was played in Napier.