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India-New Zealand Tests: Crucial away performances delivered by Indian bowlers

The Test matches between India and New Zealand have produced tenacious performances delivered by bowlers from both sides through the years. India’s famed spinners from the ‘famous quartet’, particularly Erappalli Prasanna and Bishan Singh Bedi, in earlier years and modern-era spinners in later years have delivered the goods for their team. For New Zealand, Richard Hadlee has been the most consistent bowler if one looks at the records.

There have been many instances where bowlers from both sides have created an impact and lent a positive contribution to their team’s victories. Erapalli Prasanna’s returns of 8/76 in the second innings of the Auckland Test of 1976 and Richard Hadlee’s match haul of 10/88 in the Mumbai Test of 1988, for instance, have been performances of special note.

Bowlers have risen up to the occasion on other instances as well and have created a positive impact on the match outcome. It will be worthwhile to recall three of the most memorable bowling performances delivered by Indian bowlers against New Zealand on away assignments.

Erapalli Prasanna’s 6/94 in the Dunedin Test 1968

It was the summer of 1967-68 in the southern hemisphere when the Indian cricket team first made a visit to New Zealand for a four-Test series. Two of the ‘famous quartet’ of Indian spinners - Bishan Singh Bedi and Erapalli Prasanna – were part of the squad. They delivered crucial performances at various junctures to produce a remarkable 3-1 Indian victory.

Indian off-spinning great Erapalli Prasanna set the stage for his team’s victorious performance that summer when he delivered a most lethal and economical spell of 40-11-94-6 in the second innings of the first Test at Dunedin. This spell was important also because this helped India register its first away victory.

New Zealand captain Barry Sinclair won the toss and opted to bat first in that Test match. Bruce Murray and legendary Kiwi batsman Graham Dowling opened the batting for their side. The inimitable Ramakant Desai had Murray out lbw after the Kiwi openers had added 45 runs for the first wicket. Further on, it was Dowling who strengthened his team’s prospects with a century that amounted to 143 runs and helped propel them to a respectable first innings score of 350.

Dowling’s contribution was important also because there was only one other batsman who scored a half-century for his team. The number six Kiwi batsman Mark Burgess scored 50 and helped his side reach 350 after Dowling was trapped in front of the wicket by Syed Abid Ali, with the New Zealand score at 243/4. Abid Ali returned impressive figures of 4/26. Desai returned figures of 21-3-61-2. Prasanna was economical and did not let the Kiwi batsmen free their arms with immaculate figures of 37-14-84-0.

India made an efficient reply and scored 359 runs in their first essay. Ajit Wadekar, who came in to bat at number three, scored a vital 80 runs studded with 10 fours and was involved in a 77-run stand with opener Farokh Engineer who scored 63 laced with eight hits to the fence.

With the Indian team leading by nine runs and about two and a half days still to go in the match, all three probable results – Indian win, New Zealand win or a draw – were on the cards.

It was Bapu Nadkarni who got the wicket of the first innings centurion Graham Dowling with the Kiwi score reading 33. New Zealand ended day three with a score of 84/3. They had a lead of 75 runs and had seven wickets in hand with opener Bruce Murray still on the crease.

Prasanna had Murray bowled after he reached his half-century at the beginning of Day four. It was his second wicket but he didn’t stop there as he claimed Brian Yuile’s wicket too shortly afterwards in a similar manner. New Zealand now found themselves in a spot of bother with five wickets down for 92 runs and still around two days to go in the Test. Due to Prasanna’s heroics with the ball, India was clearly in the driver’s seat with the opponents only 83 runs ahead and left with only five wickets in hand.

But the New Zealand lower order did not give in easily and the first innings half-centurion Mark Burgess rose to the occasion with a well-measured 39. He combined well with the tail to lift his team from the dire straits. He was eventually run out with the New Zealand score at 191. Prasanna had spun a web around the rest of the tail and the Kiwis were bowled out for 208, leaving India with a reachable 200.

Ajit Wadekar rose to the challenge once again and scored 71 runs and helped his side to 161/3 at the end of Day four. India eventually won the match by five wickets to register their first away victory.

Kapil Dev’s 4/34 in Wellington Test 1981

This was the first Test that took place on India’s tour of New Zealand in 1980/81 that was held in Wellington. New Zealand had a formidable lineup and had developed an even more robust reputation for themselves after managing to win 1-0 in a three-Test series against the most powerful Test team of that era, West Indies, the previous summer at home.

India too had a strong team and they had registered series victories against Australia and Pakistan at home shortly before their tour down under that season.

India’s captain Sunil Gavaskar won the toss and put the home team in to bat on a first-day pitch. It was New Zealand captain Geoff Howarth who rose to the challenge and scored a defiant 137 against the Indian bowling lineup comprising of young bowlers including Kapil Dev, Yograj Singh, Roger Binny and Ravi Shastri. Along with John Reid (46), Howarth laid a solid platform by building a 99-run partnership for the third wicket and they propelled their team to 200/3. They were eventually bowled out for 375 with Shastri taking 3/54 in his debut Test outing. Kapil Dev returned figures of 38-9-112-3 in the first innings.

Sandeep Patil played a lone hand for India in their reply with some support from Dilip Vengsarkar (39). However, the home team were undone by Lance Cairns’ 5/33 and were eventually bundled out for 223, a total of 152 runs behind.

New Zealand were comfortably placed with around two and a half days still to go and a big first-innings lead. However, ‘Haryana Hurricane’ Kapil Dev had no plans of giving up and soon got into the act. He removed John Wright and John Reid in a matter of a few overs and New Zealand were 35/2 soon into their first innings. Part-time bowler Sandeep Patil then had first-innings centurion Howarth caught behind and Roger Binny removed Bruce Edgar soon after to have the Kiwis on 58/4. Kapil Dev was egged up and he removed Jeremy Coney and Jock Edwards to have the New Zealanders at 78/6.

The home team now had a lead of 230 runs and had four wickets in hand. They were not out of the game but India were not out of it either. Debutant Ravi Shastri then spun a web around the tail-enders and had the Kiwis bowled out for 100 at the end of Day three. So, India had a target of a manageable 253 runs with two days to go following the rest day. It is another matter that the experienced Kiwi bowlers gave little away and made breakthroughs at regular intervals to keep the Indian team from reaching the target. Richard Hadlee returned impressive figures of 22.3-7-65-4 to help his side to a rare 62-run victory over the touring side. New Zealand held India to draws in the subsequent two matches and won that series 1-0.

Harbhajan Singh’s 6/63 in Hamilton Test 2009

This was one of India’s strongest Test teams to visit New Zealand as it had a mix of legends like Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar, along with crucial players like Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and others.

Indian captain MS Dhoni won the toss at Seddon Park in Hamilton, which was the venue of the first Test of the series, and opted to put the opposition in on a first-day wicket. Indian seamers Ishant Sharma and Munaf Patel delivered the goods for India in the first innings with figures of 4/73 and 3/60 respectively. With most of the New Zealand batsmen failing, their skipper Daniel Vettori scored an incredible 118 and along with Jesse Ryder, who scored 102, helped his team to 279 in the first innings.

India batted for more than 150 overs when their opportunity came. Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar helped lay a solid foundation for his team with a superb 160 off 260 balls. He was aided appreciably by Gautam Gambhir who scored 72 and Rahul Dravid who scored 66 runs.

India took a lead of 241 runs and New Zealand now had the task of batting it out for the most part of the next seven sessions to save the Test. Zaheer Khan had New Zealand opener Tim Mcintosh caught by Tendulkar for a duck and India had made the first inroad with the opponent team’s score at 0. However, the other opener Martin Guptill and number three batsman Daniel Flynn dug it in to lend their team a hint of stability in the coming overs. Guptill scored 48 and was eventually removed from the crease by Harbhajan Singh. Following this, Munaf Patel provided his team with a double break by getting Kyle Mills and Ross Taylor within a matter of a few overs.

The visitors still had a strong batting lineup in front of them and Flynn was well set. Harbhajan then got the first innings centurion Jesse Ryder with a ball that went relatively straight and trapped him in front of the stumps. New Zealand were now in a considerable state of bother with their score at 132/5. They still needed 109 runs to make India bat again. But they now had a resurgent Harbhajan Singh to deal with as he had his tail up after picking two wickets.

Harbhajan’s next victim was James Franklin followed by half-centurion Daniel Flynn. New Zealand were now 161/7 and were staring at imminent defeat. However, Brendon McCullum dug it in at one end and along with number 10 batsman, Iain O’Brien took his team beyond the first-innings deficit. But the ninth-wicket partnership of 76 runs between these two players was eventually broken by Harbhajan when he had O’Brien caught by VVS Laxman who was standing at silly point. McCullum was dismissed in the subsequent over delivered by Yuvraj Singh.

India had a small target of 39 runs which they overhauled in just over five overs and they registered a 10-wicket victory. The visitors eventually claimed the three-match series 1-0.

Statistical Look At Top Bowlers For India And New Zealand Over The Years:

Top three bowlers for India against New Zealand (in terms of wickets taken)

Top three bowlers for New Zealand against India (in terms of wickets taken)

Top three 5WI for India against New Zealand

Top three 5WI for New Zealand against India

Top three 10WM for India against New Zealand

Top three 10WM for New Zealand against India

Top three bowlers from India in terms of strike rate against New Zealand

Top three bowlers from New Zealand in terms of strike rate against India:

The World Test Championship Final between India and New Zealand promises to be an exciting match. It is scheduled to be held between June 18-22 at Southampton in England. Both the teams will rely on their bowling firepower to deliver the goods in the big match.


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