The India v New Zealand Test proved a surprisingly interesting match.
While Sehwag was at the crease blitzing the Kiwi bowlers, it looked for all the world to be another of those Indian 500+ 1st innings in which an insurmountable score is produced before which the opposing team is left to fall and crumble. The New Zealand fieldsmen eagerly helped this perception by missing, fumbling and dropping balls that on the odd occasion came their way. I lost count of how many boundaries were scored. At times it felt that the Indian batsmen scored no other way. I suppose Indian fans feel differently about it, but I found it ... unexciting. Sehwag might have produced his customary fireworks — and there were some fine shots there — but it was boring fireworks: for a while there, I felt as if I was watching a loop of the same over, over and over again.
On Day 2, however, the Kiwis came out a different XI: the previously sheepishly meek attack had grown teeth over night and almost wolfishly bowled the Indians out just before tea and the 500 runs mark. It wasn't, perhaps, much, but it was something. Then it all looked like it was going pear-shaped again: two Kiwi wickets fell all too quickly and that was the end of Day 2 ... and, I thought, proverbial that.
But overnight, the Kiwi batsmen must have got a shot of whatever they had given their bowlers the day before: for on Day 3, we saw not one but two centuries and some sensible, fighting-for-a-chance batting, notably even from Brendon McCullum. And even if they did not, in the end, score quite as many runs as the Indians had, they were well within striking distance. And the Kiwis carried this attitude with them to the 2nd innings: Sehwag was run out for 1 thanks to some keen fielding by Guptill (sub); Martin, of all people, got 5 wickets in rapid succession. There was, all of a sudden, the smell of a result in the air and it was New Zealand who seemed to be sniffing a victory.
And then they ran into the Master of the 2nd Innings Fightback, VVS Laxman, and that tailender barnacle, Harbhajan Singh. And boy! did it ever go pear-shaped. How pear-shaped did it go? New Zealand was reduced to such desperation that Bredon McCullum, the former Test 'keeper, bowled 6 overs. That desperate. In the midst of this desperation, VVS Laxman put on 91 runs and Harbhajan scored his maiden Test ton. Congratulations, Harbahajan!
But here I felt it got disappointing: India didn't declare. Carrying a slender lead of 28 runs into the 2nd innings, India went on to put on an additional 266 runs in some 80 overs on that Day 5, ultimately leaving New Zealand 10 overs to achieve 295 runs for an outright win. Now, I know it's a Test and that in order to win, a team really should not only score more runs, it should also take 20 wickets. And yes, I know that my very own Captain Punter seems almost pathologically incapable of declaring at the proper moment — especially if there's a batsman out at the crease looking like he might achieve some personal milestone — but I rail against that all the time so ... I don't know whether New Zealand really deserved to win more than India did, but they deserved a sporting chance to do so. And I'm sorry, but I felt it was a tad wimpy to deny them that chance.