AHMEDABAD // Brendan McCullum, New Zealand’s opening batsman, praised the performances of teammates Jesse Ryder and Kane Williamson for launching a fight-back against India.
After McCullum had fallen for a patient 65 with the score on 137 for four, Ryder and Williamson added an innings-saving 194 runs for the fifth wicket to leave New Zealand on 331 for five in reply to India’s 487.
Ryder, the powerful left-hander, was out just before close of the third day’s play for 103, while Williamson was not out on 87 on his debut.
“Jesse is a professional and a fighter who is capable of getting good scores,” McCullum said. “He has put us in a fairly good position and we can hope to fight it out over the next two days; Williamson is an incredible talent and we need guys like him to develop. His ability to negotiate his way through and occupy the crease will help him and I think he has proved himself in his first Test match.”
McCullum has hit the most sixes in international Twenty20 cricket, yet he curbed his attacking instincts at the top of the order yesterday, making 65 off 122 balls.
“I am trying to become an opener, which is quite different from the Test matches that I have played,” he said. “It was good to bat for some time and get runs.”
Ryder and Williamson were comfortable against both pace and spin bowling, leaving MS Dhoni, the India captain, to resort to part-timers Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Suresh Raina.
Ryder, 26, was lucky to survive a chance as Rahul Dravid dropped him at slip off Shanthakumaran Sreesanth when on 11.
He got to his 50 with a pulled four off a full toss from Tendulkar and continued steadily despite having to use a runner through the last session because of a stiff calf muscle.
Ryder struck 10 fours and a six during the 205-ball knock; his stand with Williamson stretched to 281 minutes and 412 deliveries.
Ryder had slammed his previous centuries at Hamilton (102) and Napier (201) when India toured New Zealand last year during a three-Test series.
Williamson, 20, who earned a call to the Test side after hitting a century in Bangladesh last month when New Zealand lost 4-0 in a five-match one-day series, gave a good account of himself with nimble footwork.
He was content taking singles and twos, having hit only six fours so far. Earlier, Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha took key wickets in the morning session.
The overnight pair of McCullum and Ross Taylor (56) stretched their third-wicket partnership to 104 runs before both fell to the spinners.
Taylor gave an easy catch to VVS Laxman at short mid-wicket when he jabbed at a Harbhajan delivery pitched on leg stump. He hit six fours off 124 balls during his 10th half-century in 26 Tests.
McCullum followed him, stumped by Dhoni while stretching out to reach a flighted Ojha delivery that turned away.
McCullum’s knock, his 17th 50 in 53 Tests, was studded with 11 fours and came off 122 balls.
This is the first match of a three-Test series. The other Tests will be held in Hyderabad and Nagpur.
India first innings 487 (Sehwag 173, Dravid 104, Singh 69; Vettori 4-118, Patel 3-135)
New Zealand first innings (overnight 69-2)
McIntosh c Dhoni b Khan 0
McCullum st Dhoni b Ojha 65
Watling b Ojha 6
Taylor c Laxman b Harbhajan 56
Ryder lbw b Sreesanth 103
Williamson not out 87
Extras (b-1, lb-9, nb-4) 14
Total (five wickets; 117.3 overs) 331
Fall of wickets: 1-8 2-27 3-131 4-137 5-331
To bat: Vettori, Hopkins, Patel, Bennett, Martin
Bowling: Khan 19-6-38-1, Sreesanth 17.3-1-70-1 (4nb), Ojha 38-8-80-2, Harbhajan 34-7-90-1, Sehwag 1-0-7-0, Raina 6-0-20-0, Tendulkar 2-0-16-0.