Wellington: Inexperienced New Zealand fast bowlers ruined India's batting reputation and helped the host gain an upper hand on the opening day of the first Test at the Basin Reserve here on Thursday.
Shane Bond, Scott Styris each grabbed three wickets, while Daryl Tuffey and Jacob Oram shared four as India were bundled out for 161 after being put in to bat on a lively pitch despite Rahul Dravid's fighting 76. New Zealand lost opener Lou Vincent before reaching 53 for one at stumps. Mark Richardson was batting on 27 with skipper Stephen Fleming (11). Tuffey, Bond and Styris had a combined experience of just 17 Tests before this match, while Oram made his debut. The foursome still proved fearsome and too hot to handle for the famed Indian batting line-up on a pitch which had both pace and bounce, as the tourists were all out in the fifth over after tea. New Zealand did not have to pay dearly for three dropped catches in the slips, thanks to its pacemen's skill to strike at regular intervals. Dravid maintained his reputation as one of the best Indian batsmen away from home as he top-scored with a gutsy 28th half-century in 68 Tests. The reliable middle-order batsman, 29, alone gave a good account of himself against a disciplined four-man pace attack, timing the ball sweetly to hit 13 fours in his 172-ball knock. Dravid looked confident and applied himself remarkably well as he patiently waited for the loose deliveries to punish. He reached his half-century in the afternoon session when he steered Tuffey over the slips for a four. He came in to bat after two overs and was the ninth man to be dismissed, bowled by Styris. His teammates, however, were found wanting in technique and temperament against the pacemen, tail-ender Zaheer Khan being the second-highest scorer with 19. India's batting woes began early in the cold and windy conditions as Tuffey rattled the tourists with two wickets in his opening three overs, removing openers Virender Sehwag (2) and Sanjay Bangar (1). Sehwag had not even settled down when he was bowled through the gate off the one that cut in sharply. Bangar fell to a dubious decision and looked surprised when Sri Lankan umpire Asoka de Silva ruled him out caught off the gloves in the slips even though the ball appeared to have brushed the elbow. India suffered a big blow when Sachin Tendulkar fell for eight to leave his team tottering at 29 for three. The master batsman was adjudged leg before on the front foot by the Sri Lankan umpire while offering no stroke and became Oram's first Test victim. India nearly lost skipper Saurav Ganguly at 35 as Fleming failed to latch on to a high catch at first slip off Bond when the batsman was on three. Ganguly (17) survived one more chance in the slips before luck deserted him in the last over before lunch as he was caught low in the slips by Vincent off Bond. The Indian batting continued to wobble as V V S Laxman was dismissed for nought in the opening over after the break, caught by wicket-keeper Robbie Hart while attempting to fend off a rising delivery from Bond. India had lost five wickets for a paltry 55, but Dravid continued to keep his end intact and helped his team cross the 150-mark. His 37-run stand for the sixth wicket with Parthiv Patel was the highest of the innings. Patel also got a life before being caught by Vincent off Oram. Styris, playing only his second Test, removed Ajit Agarkar and Harbhajan Singh off successive deliveries before being denied a hat-trick by Zaheer.
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