New Zealand needed a good start and McIntosh knew this was his last chance to perform. He played each and every ball to it’s merit. With him batting, Pakistan could have started with Aameer. Gul tested Watling with good pace and tight lines but the young debutant played as sraight as possible. That was one big positive with Watling. He presents a straight bat as far as possible. The bowlers gave nothing away, the first half an hour producing just 13 runs. And with the initial hard work done, Watling gave it away with a loose slash on the off side which went straight to gully. Both bowlers bowled testing lines on a pretty flat day 2 wicket.
There was a rain delay for about 10 minutes in the middle of the first session and the groundsmen were strolling in the park instead of rushing to cover the wicket. I know it’s a laid back country but the rain was quite thick and any groundsman would have rushed to cover the pitch.
I was looking forward to Kaneria’s bowling in this pitch. The bounce was there to be exploited and his googlies were always going to be unknowns to the Kiwi batsmen. He had to be played very positively and that’s how Guptill started off. Two wonderful drives on the off side off the front foot but Guptill never took off from there. His backlift was too high to face Kaneria and the bowler knew how to exploit it. He delivered a googly which was a little high on pace and Guptill was plumb in front. He was never going to bring his bat down on time.
This was a great opportunity for Ross Taylor to put ip a big century. He was finding the sweet spot very consistently and was playing Kaneria with due respect. There was no gap between bat and pad and played Kaneria very straight. And all of a sudden, he tried to whack the ball over mid wicket without fully getting to the pitch of the ball. I know there was no necessity for that shot but thats how Taylor plays. Can’t complain. He’s too gifted.
If theres a problem with Flynn, its playing spin. Kaneria is too good a bowler for the likes of Flynn. Now that he’s failed again, he would be the man going out on the return of Jesse Ryder.
McIntosh meanwhile was well set. The time he had spent in the crease had to be used up to make a big century but an attempted sweep shot of Kaneria got him. I wondered if McIntosh would have ever practiced playing the sweep.
In came the new Mr.Cricket. Or rather the king of cricket as Ian Smith calls him. Best bowler, selector, captain, coach apart, he has turned out to be the best performing batsman. He’s matching Ross Taylor for the most runs scored by a Kiwi in a calender year. Thats also a measure of the strength of the so called batsmen.
Both Dan and McCullum knew they had to score runs to move ahead in the game. McIntosh took the life out of the bowlers with a very valuable and patient knock but the score was just 136 when half the side was lost. And the way they did it was terrific. Both of them shuffled to the off stump at the time of the delivery. They were ruining the lines of the fast bowlers. The bowlers ran out of ideas. And the timing was so sweet they managed 180 odd runs in one session post tea at five runs an over. Bad balls were induced and were duly punished. McCullum shifted to the off side and when he saw the ball on good length on on his body, he simply defended it. Had it been a limited overs game, he would have had to whack it anyway. Since he had the time and the responsibility to play a long knock, he simply respected the delivery. And on seeing a loose ball after shifting to the off stump, he punished it anyway. The running between the wickets was top class. Pakistani bowlers were clearly outplayed. They would have never dreamt of such tactics by this pair. And the captain was too new to react.
It took a great ball to end that great innings from McCullum. Gul pitched it shot and the ball came in sharply at McCullum’s chest. He could only fend that behind to offer a simple catch.Very valuable knock that was. Gul was trying to reverse the ball. He gave his heart out even atthe fag end of the day. Some bowlers trying to bowl inswing with the old ball try to hide the ball using their non bowling hand. I wonder if that can just alter the rythm and take some pace away. I’m not sure but the non bowling hand could lend a lot more support and enhance the balance and the pace (if not used in covering the ball).
I did expect NZ to take the lead by stumps. At lunch, it didn’t look easy. At tea,it looked more difficult and at stumps, the lead was there!, with 4 wickets still in the bag. Long live Daniel Vettori!