New Zealand are set for a trial by spin again as the second Test gets underway in Bangalore on Friday.
The venue has changed but the skies stand to remain overcast again and the traffic one-way despite what Ross Taylor says, as India take on New Zealand in the second Test in Bangalore starting Friday. New Zealand are hoping to avoid a second successive 2-0 series loss, having been bowled out for 159 and 164 in Hyderabad to lose by an innings and 115 runs, but just where the inspiration will come from is anyone's guess headed into a venue where the visitors have never won a Test.
After the troubles of the past year, India began the new season with a convincing win but the aim must be to win the series by an even bigger margin. They are ranked fifth in the Test world and must strive to make it back to the top. England and Australia will pose much stiffer challenges in the months to come, and so figuring out the best XI to tackle them is paramount to India's success. There are still players being tested out and slots vacant. One win does not signify much.
To strengthen their success in Hyderabad, India will need more from Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and Suresh Raina as they attempt to pound New Zealand again. The openers were both guilty of throwing away their wickets, the legendary No. 4 added another poor score to his 2012 tally, and Raina was out for 3 caught down the leg side off Jeetan Patel. India's win owed strongly to Cheteshwar Pujara's 159 and busy half-centuries to Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni, but a reliance on three players – two still Test rookies – is not the way India must look to the future.
In the other camp, Taylor has expressed his frustration at the failure of the batsmen to convert starts into sizeable innings - Kane Williamson was the only half-centurion with 52, while Brendon McCullum scored an uncharacteristic 42 in the second innings – and called on improved technique and steelier resolve. Brittle batting was the reason for New Zealand's defeat in the first Test, and considering four of the top six have played less than 30 Tests, it is not a problem that is going to go away soon.
The opening partnership has been especially worrisome; in the past 12 months, only once has it produced more than 100 runs, and of the four pairs used, only one has averaged more than 50. Little wonder then that New Zealand have struggled to put up totals in excess of 350, who would allow their bowling attack room to breathe.
New Zealand have decided to stick with McCullum and Martin Guptill at the top, despite the pair averaging 35.55 for the opening wicket in nine innings over the past year. With Williamson a fit at No. 3 ahead of Taylor, the scrutiny falls on Daniel Flynn, James Franklin and the wicketkeeper, Kruger van Wyk.
Flynn was twice out lbw sweeping R Ashwin in Hyderabad, while van Wyk's lbw dismissals of 0 and 13 will force the management to consider playing BJ Watling as glovesman in Bangalore. The South Africa-born van Wyk kept wickets well but his second-innings dismissal, trying to reverse-sweep Ashwin, was a forgettable one. Watling has kept wickets in just one of his eight Tests – against Zimbabwe in January – but could edge out van Wyk, who is five years older at 32.
Franklin's bowling was remarkably pedestrian in Hyderabad but he could keep his place on the basis of an unbeaten 43 in the first innings, ahead of Neil Wagner. Of the four fast bowlers used in Hyderabad, Bracewell was the most expensive and erratic at 3.44, so he could make way for Tim Southee.
As in Hyderabad, spin is expected to have a say in Bangalore, though the monsoon has played a part in preparation, and with rain in the air, there is a chance of more support for the quick men. A day ago there was a fair amount of grass on the pitch but the curator, who vouched for a sporting surface, is likely to shave it off on the eve of the match. Local experts reckon the surface will take spin but don’t expect it to be a rank turner. New Zealand succumbed to the pair of Ashwin (12 for 85) and Pragyan Ojha (6 for 92) in Hyderabad, and though none of the current lot featured in heavy defeats in 1988 (by 127 runs) and 1995 (by eight wickets) at the Chinnaswamy in the past, the script looks set to play out another one-sided match.
India: 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Virender Sehwag, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Sachin Tendulkar, 5 Virat Kohli, 6 Suresh Raina, 7 MS Dhoni (capt/wk), 8 R Ashwin, 9 Zaheer Khan, 10 Pragyan Ojha, 11 Umesh Yadav
New Zealand: 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Brendon McCullum, 3 Kane Williamson, 4 Ross Taylor (capt), 5 Daniel Flynn, 6 James Franklin, 7 Kruger van Wyk/BJ Watling, (wk), 8 Doug Bracewell, Jeetan Patel, 10 Trent Boult, 11 Chris Martin