A Test loss is a loss at the end of the day, and no matter how hard India try to console themselves, the fact is that they would be disappointed to have ended up on the losing side at Auckland too. Even so, they would at least be pleased to an extent that they managed to compete and did not go down without a fight. In fact, they came tantalisingly close to the target in the end and, with a bit of luck, might well have pulled off a spectacular Test win.
As India look to set things in order for the second Test, their last chance to win a game on the tour of New Zealand, there are a few positives they can build on. There were plenty of question marks over India’s bowling as they headed to Auckland following the poor one-day results. Heads were raised further when Ishant Sharma was again chosen in the eleven ahead of Ishwar Pandey, who had made an impact in the practice game that preceded the Test. The initial signs were encouraging for India when Zaheer Khan and Ishant combined to get the side off to a great start with the ball.
India’s overall effort with the ball in the first innings was disappointing though. They allowed New Zealand to recover from a disastrous start and conceded over 500 runs in the first innings. Ishant Sharma did grab six wickets but he wasn’t consistent throughout. It was in the second innings that the Indian bowling really came together as a brilliant pace bowling unit. Mohammed Shami used the pace and movement in the pitch to great effect to sting the Kiwis. Ishant and Zaheer then provided the perfect back up, striking at regular intervals and demolishing the Kiwis in no time.
Like with their bowling, there was little to cheer for India as far as the first innings batting was concerned. If anything, Rohit Sharma’s half-century was the only silver lining in an otherwise disastrous batting effort. A couple of others, Murali Vijay and Ajinkya Rahane got starts, but couldn’t carry on, and Ravindra Jadeja was stranded in the end, having run out of partners. Their sensational bowling performance however gave the Indian batsmen a second shot at redemption and, in spite of falling short of the target, they put up a credible show.
The biggest positive of all undoubtedly was the second innings century of Shikhar Dhawan. Irrespective of the result, Dhawan needed this knock to prove to himself that he can perform away from home as well in Tests. Even since the South Africa series, he hadn’t had one innings of substance, but this ton is definitely a reassuring factor in his short career. Virat Kohli, as usual, played a defiant knock in the second innings although by his own standards he would have been disappointed by his returns. Putting the loss aside, India will be content that they came up with some heartening efforts.
--By A Cricket Analyst