Napier (New Zealand): India's preparations for the opening Test against New Zealand was given a jolt after their batsmen were skittled out for 209 in the tourists opening match on Friday.
India virtually fielded a full-strength squad in its only three-day game before the first Test, but found Central Districts' fast bowlers too hot to handle on a pitch, which had both pace and bounce. The opening Test begins at Wellington on December 12. The hosts' lost Peter Ingram before reaching 69 for one at stumps on the opening day. Skipper Craig Spearman was batting on 40 with Mathew Sinclair (17). Skipper Saurav Ganguly (48) and Sachin Tendulkar (44) were the main scorers in a dismal Indian batting performance, which revived horrors of 1998-99 when the tourists lost to Central Districts by seven wickets. Michael Mason (three for 46), Andrew Schwass (three for 46) and Lance Hamilton ruined the Indian batting with disciplined spells and never allowed the tourists to settle down. "Their pacemen bowled a decent line, but we could have done better. There's no need to panic. This is the early part of the tour and I'm confident we'll settle down before the Test," Ganguly said. The trio also kept wicket-keeper Martyn Sigley busy throughout the innings as they constantly beat the Indian batsmen with pace and bounce. Sigley did not let his bowlers down, taking four catches. The hosts hardly missed the services of key all-rounder Jacob Oram, who pulled out of the match due to a hamstring-injury. "I think Indians had problems adjusting to the conditions," Central Districts coach Mark Greatbatch said. "We've an experienced attack and our fast bowlers did well. We'll play positive cricket and the first session will be crucial tomorrow." Mason started the slide with two wickets in his fourth over after the tourists had been put in to bat. Virender Sehwag (12) hit left-arm paceman Hamilton for two successive fours before falling to Mason while trying an ambitious shot early in his knock. Sehwag attempted to swing Mason, but got a leading edge and was caught by Sinclair in the slips. Mason had Rahul Dravid caught behind a ball later. Opener Sanjay Bangar worked hard for 21 runs before losing his patience and wicket, edging Schwass to Sigley. Batting superstar Tendulkar counter-attacked in a bid to ease the pressure, but his flourish did not last long as he was bowled while trying to drive a fuller-length delivery from Hamilton. Hamilton, who rose to fame after dismissing Australian Test captain Steve Waugh twice in a match two years ago, struck again when he had V V S Laxman (9) caught behind. Ganguly, like Tendulkar, also failed to capitalise on a good start. He batted more than an hour before being caught behind to leave his team tottering at 161 for eight. Tail-ender Harbhajan Singh chanced his arm as he hit off-spinner Glen Sulzberger for a six in his 48-ball 29 to help his team cross the 200-mark.
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