Hamilton: India finds itself in a horror situation again as it prepares to salvage some of its pride in the second and final Test against New Zealand at the Westpac Park on Thursday.
A bouncy track, a sharp New Zealand pace attack and cold weather here threatened to revive unhappy memories for India, which collapsed in similar conditions in the first Test at Wellington last week. The tourists surrendered tamely against fast bowling at Wellington as they scored 161 in the first innings and 121 in the second to crash to a 10-wicket defeat and trail 1-0 in the two-match series. The defeat ensured that India's dream of winning the first Test series outside the sub-continent since 1986 remained unfulfilled. Worse, India's preparations for the match suffered a setback as it was forced to practise indoors due to rain, threatening to rule out a timely start to the game. India also faces a shrewd and unyielding skipper in Stephen Fleming, who said his team had the firepower to put pressure on the opposition again. "There's a lot of seam movement and bounce in New Zealand's pitches this year and that'll provide exciting cricket," Fleming said on Wednesday. "Shane Bond has added a new dimension to the side we haven't had for some time. What he does gives confidence to his fellow seamers. He allows us to put pressure on the opposition." Fast bowler Bond played a key role in his team's victory at Wellington as he grabbed seven wickets in the match, followed by Daryl Tuffey and Jacob Oram with five apiece. There will be no respite from pace for India whose stroke-happy batsmen have yet to show the patience required to succeed in these conditions. Rahul Dravid alone looked impressive as he scored 76 in the first innings while his teammates, including batting superstar Sachin Tendulkar, failed to live up to expectations. "But our respect for Indian batsmen has not diminished at all," said Fleming. "We know we have to execute our plans well. We need to play well again to put them under pressure. We are confident of doing that, but wary of what they can do if we don't. "If you (India) have world-class batsmen in your side, you should be able to play in all kinds of conditions." Fleming also set sights on the future, saying the win would help the team improve its world ranking. "If we win this Test, we can move towards the summit," said Fleming, whose side is currently third after Australia and South Africa on the ICC Test Championship rankings. "Our ranking is a reflection of our performances in recent months. I think we can be world-beaters if we are consistent enough next year. "We are looking forward to matches in the sub-continent to prove we are a world- class side. We know it's going to be difficult to maintain (consistency) and go on." Indian captain Saurav Ganguly brushed aside the pitch fears, saying his team could square the series provided the batsmen played up to their potential. "We've levelled the series after being 1-0 down in England and Sri Lanka and against Australia at home," he said. "The wicket (at Wellington) was not difficult. It was not responsible for our defeat. We should have batted better. I see no reason why we can't do it here as we have attacking batsmen who have scored runs in all conditions. "The pitch may help fast bowlers here, but we shouldn't be worried about it. If it's green it's green, we have to play Test cricket on it and see how it goes." Teams (from): New Zealand: Stephen Fleming (captain), Mark Richardson, Lou Vincent, Craig McMillan, Nathan Astle, Scott Styris, Jacob Oram, Robbie Hart, Daniel Vettori, Daryl Tuffey, Shane Bond, Michael Mason. India: Saurav Ganguly (captain), Sanjay Bangar, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Venkatsai Laxman, Parthiv Patel, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Tinu Yohannan, Ajit Agarkar, Murli Kartik, Shiv Das, Ajay Ratra, Mohammad Kaif.
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