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Martin Crowe - Pitch for bare truth

The strategy of Black Caps is to try slow it down and be defensive, writes Crowe

Thursday, March 19, 2022
Kiwis were defensive

New Zealand didn't take early wickets apart from that one run-out of Virender Sehwag, therefore they played quite defensively throughout the day as we predicted. While they got a wicket with the second new ball, I don't think they have attacked enough to be able to stay in the match.

When you look at the pitch map, you notice the Indian bowlers bowled a lot fuller, and the New Zealand bowlers bowled a lot shorter in trying to be defensive. And they should have attacked more by bowling fuller. When they did bowl full, they got little bit of the reward. So I thought tactically they were a little off the pace.

Daniel Vettori came onto bowl and he already had three men on the boundary. He is a lot better bowler than that. So I am not sure what the thinking was there. He didn't toss the ball up that much. He just looked to keep it tight until the second new ball.

But Sachin Tendulkar just proved his class just by pacing it through and looked set for another hundred. He hasn't got one here at Hamilton, so probably time he chalked one.

At the other end it was typical Rahul Dravid. He was diligent at the crease, he worked hard on getting behind the ball. And he hit the bad wide ball very well. I thought he put on a good partnership with Gautam Gambhir. He was running hard between the wickets. 

You know it was a surprise to see him go. A little bit of straight leg. I think technically he is a little bit side on and lines his head to mid-off a little too much to my liking. But that's the way he plays. It was a nice innings that probably should have been in this situation a little bit more.

You might have wanted Dravid to score at a faster clip. But I think what we saw even with Tendulkar similar strike rate of around 40 runs per 100 balls. And that's because this pitch is not that easy to drive on. It's not really coming on, apart from second new ball. 

So everyone struggled while driving. That's why New Zealand should have bowled a lot more fuller deliveries to try and entice the drive because it's been difficult to hit down the ground. And instead most of the batsmen on both the days have prospered more square off the wicket.

With four down with lead already erased India would look to bat most of tomorrow and get a minimum lead of 200 I would have thought. From there they hold the key to the game. And it's just a case of bowling as well as they did on the first day by bowling fuller. Harbhajan perhaps getting a little bit more into the game with bit more turn, but its always going to be slow throughout.

The honours are with India, but New Zealand didn't bowl badly, they just didn't bowl that great. It was an okay performance. It will always come down to that first half-hour or so tomorrow morning just like this morning. If you get early wickets New Zealand can think of bowling India out for maybe 350-400. But if they get away they get away in the first hour, with Yuvraj, Tendulkar then its got to be difficult to peg them back I would have thought.

It looks to me that the strategy of the New Zealand team is to try and slow it down and be defensive. That I don't think is going to win you a Test match. Over five days unless rains intervene, I think India should eke their way to a win in this Test match.