Battling At The Basin: On-going

They (the Indians), are quality players and you have to be up to your game. Black Caps pace bowler, Tim Southee

Plenty to talk about

By Roger Childs

Basin Reserve Flyovers, match fixing, the $866,175 man, an important baby and the brink of an historic test series win: it’s all happening as India and the Black Caps set to do battle in Wellington. ( See day’s play updates at the end).

Hopefully Wellingtonians will turn out in greater numbers than the Eden Park attendance for the first test. It was a very disappointing “crowd” in Auckland for a highly dramatic match which ended in a famous New Zealand victory. The Indian community was there in force and may well have outnumbered Black Cap supporters.

Regardless, spectators at the Basin tomorrow will have plenty to discuss between the overs and during the breaks

  • The value of Corey Anderson and other Kiwis for the Indian Premier League
  • M S Dhoni being added to the suspects for match fixing
  • The arrival or non arrival of Victoria and Ross Taylor’s second child
  • The merits and possible routes of the planned flyover to the airport
  • Whether the toss winner was right to bat or bowl
  • Can the Black Caps win the series?

A famous sports ground

1913 crowd at the Baisn The Basin Reserve is a small test venue by national standards, but one of the most historic, accessible and picturesque. For Wellingtonians it’s an iconic ground.

Over the years it has witnessed not only cricket matches, but also soccer, rugby, rugby league, Australian Rules, track and field, cycling, inter-secondary school athletics, wood chopping, dancing and concerts.

Where else in the world would there be a great debate about a flyover, based partly on the issue of spoiling the view for players and spectators alike?

The main activity has always been cricket, first played at the Basin in 1868. Over the last 50 years the ground has been the setting for some historic feats

  • The highest test innings by a New Zealander: Martin Crowe’s 299
  • New Zealand’s first test victory against the West Indies in 1968
  • Richard Hadlee’s 300th test wicket: Australian captain Alan Border
  • A record fourth wicket test partnership of 467 between Martin Crowe and Andrew Jones
  • John Reid’s innings of 296 in which he hit a record of 15 sixes, putting pedestrians and traffic in Adelaide Road and Cambridge Terrace in periodic danger.

A tricky wicket

Basin reserve from a distance The Basin pitch tends to favour pace bowling. If the wicket is green on top, the ball can swing and lift prodigiously. Not surprisingly, wind can play its part in the Basin’s unpredictability.

Southerlies can whistle off Cook Strait, through the valley from Island Bay to Lambton Harbour and bring joy, hope and extra pace for the fast bowlers operating from the southern end.

However if the team batting first can weather the storm of the first hour’s fast bowling, the pitch settles down and is good for plenty of runs.

The weather looks good and the prospects for a full day’s play seem assured.

What to expect

Tom Latham “We would obviously look at bowling if we win the toss” says Black Caps captain Brendon McCullum. However he has lost all six tosses this year against M S Dhoni, so will his luck change?

The Black Caps will be without star batsman, Ross Taylor, who awaits the arrival of his second child. As coach Mike Hesson has judiciously remarked family comes first and we all support that.

Taylor’s absence provides Canterbury batsman Tom Latham (pictured top left),  the chance to play his first test. Also on debut tomorrow is Jimmy Neesham (pictured bottom left), reflecting the view that the pitch will favour pace bowling. He replaces leg spinner Ish Sodhi, who played in the first test.

NeeshamWe just think with this wicket, the best method of attack against this Indian side is to roll out another seamer, so Jimmy Neesham comes in…  McCullum said. He’s quite an attacking style bowler as well …and Neesham’s batting is a bit of a bonus

Cricket fans will wonder about the changes and know that the in-form Taylor is a hard man to replace. The toss is vital and the winner will almost certainly bowl first. Black Cap supporters will hope McCullum calls it right.

The Indians are number two in the ICC test rankings and will be keen to avenge the narrow loss in Auckland. On the other side, the Blacks Caps realize that history beckons if they can win or draw. There is everything to play for.

Day One goes to  India

Brendan McCullum didn’t call it right for the eight time in a row! As anticipated India opted to  bowl and the Black Caps were bowled out for 192. It could have been much less: when with the score at 90 or so for 6, Williamson was caught behind. However video footage showed that Sharma had overstepped, so the Black Caps most consistent batsman remained and went on t o get the top score of 47.

The green top wicket can’t be blamed for all the dismissals. There were some soft ones

  • McCullum being caught at mid off after playing an amateurish shot
  • Neesham, who batted well on debut for his 33, following a lifting ball which he should have left
  • Southee who also played well while he was there and livened up the crowd with a few sixes, got out to a nothing shot.

As expected India made a solid start in their first innings and opener Dharwan showed that he is a class batsman. A big first innings lead is highly likely.

It was great atmosphere on day one and there was a good crowd in on what was a work and school day. I sat near an elderly Englishman who loves cricket and spends three months every summer with his wife  in their Khandallah house. He loves the country and is delighted to be away from the terrible English weather!

Day two: India press home the advantage

As expected India gained a considerable first innings lead. There was excellent batting from Dharwan and Rahane and then captain MS Dhoni whacked 68 in quick time. With the Indians 165 for 5 the Black Caps were back in the match, but they could not get more quick wickets.

Then Fulton was out for the second time leg before. It’s hard to see the Black Caps avoiding defeat as there are three days to go and Sunday has dawned fine and clear.

Days three and four: the Black Caps fight back!

McCullumAt 96 for 5 it seemed all over bar some muted shouting. However by lunch time on day four the Black Caps had an unexpected lead of over 100 thanks to a 250+ partnership by  McCullum (pictured alongside) and Watling.  However there is still a day and a half to  go and the New Zealanders will  need at least another 200 to set the Indians a reasonable total to  chase.

The fight back is great to see. Even if the eventual outcome is a win to India, The Black Caps will not have meekly surrendered after a poor first innings batting display.