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India, NZ Play True To Form

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Fuseworks Media
India, NZ Play True To Form

By Chris Barclay of NZPA

Wellington, April 8 NZPA - India's cricketing legends justified their super star billing and New Zealand's reputation for frustrating inconsistency was maintained as a fluctuating test series ended in familiar circumstances at the Basin Reserve.

Rain has been a constant irritant since New Zealand's opening test of the summer against the West Indies in Dunedin four months ago, though there were no complaints from Daniel Vettori and his team when it swept in on cue to prevent India completing a 2-0 series victory yesterday.

Instead Vettori's counterpart Mahendra Singh Dhoni had to settle for series-opening 10-wicket triumph in Hamilton as being the significant point of difference between the third and eighth-ranked test playing nations.

India might have arrived here expecting better but considering they had not won a one-day series on New Zealand soil, a test since 1976 or a test series in 41 years they fly home today with a sense of satisfaction.

New Zealand shaded two tight finishes in the Twenty20s but dropped the one-day series in 3-1 in the face of a sustained onslaught from Virender Sehwag.

The opener lost his mojo in the tests but with Gautam Gambhir statistically outshining luminaries such as Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, Sehwag's series average of 28 was immaterial -- and still superior to his New Zealand counterparts Tim McIntosh and Martin Guptill.

India's 1-0 margin was not as close as the score line suggested -- they were rarely threatened once New Zealand folded to 60 for six before lunch on the opening day of the series at Seddon Park.

New Zealand earned a rare opportunity to enforce the follow on in Napier but Gautam Gambhir's marathon 137 and VVS Laxman's 124 ensured a stalemate.

There was another window of opportunity last Friday when Vettori's gamble to bowl first appeared to pay off when India slumped to 204 for six -- but the remnants of the middle order and tail carried the score to 379.

New Zealand's reply was a pitiful 197 when the situation demanded a total off 500-plus to exert some pressure on an increasing complacent opponent.

India appeared to be sleep-walking for long periods at the Basin, though they were so far head of the game they could afford to relax.

Notably, it was Sachin Tendulkar's demand to bowl about midday yesterday as support for Harbhajan Singh that placed India on the fast track to triumph before the weather deteriorated.

Not content to amass 344 runs at 68.80, Tendulkar bid farewell with two for 45 from nine overs, an analysis more dangerous than it appeared.

"That is what is great about Sachin Tendulkar," Dhoni said.

"He doesn't just contribute with the bat or his ideas, he can contribute as a bowler.

"We do not see him bowl much but this was an occasion when he said he wanted to bowl. He was mixing the deliveries. He was flighting the ball and using the googlies to a good extent to confuse the batsmen.

"He really set up the momentum where we might win the game."

Harbhajan's four for 59 also ratcheted up the pressure and had the forecast not been accurate when New Zealand were 281 for eight then the home side were beyond hope.

Reflecting on New Zealand's narrow escape Vettori acknowledged his side were still too inconsistent to improve their lowly world ranking although the series at least revealed some positives.

"I think have to remember we've only lost one test match and we dominated the last one (Napier)."

Jesse Ryder's continued development, Martin Guptill's promising debut season, resurrected quick bowler Chris Martin and Ross Taylor's batting were among the encouraging signs.

However, the biggest opening stand between Tim McIntosh and Guptill was only 30 while Daniel Flynn had only one substantial knock in four in the pivotal first drop position.

Vettori did not mask his own deficiencies after he snared seven wickets at 52.28. Spin bowling rival Harbhajan was the top wicket taker in the series with 16 at 21.37.

The captain averaged 55 and compiled his third century with the bat but the ball remains his prime responsibility.

"My results as a bowler haven't been as good as I would have liked," he admitted.

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