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Five losses out of the last seven Tests makes poor reading for New Zealand, but there remains a feeling of respite in the aftermath of the Bangalore defeat. Despite a winning margin of five wickets, with Indian partnerships of 77 and 96 in the final innings, there was a sense of fight in the New Zealand ranks; something the first Test shambles lacked. The Hyderabad loss left a taste of insipid apathy; the Bangalore loss reinvigorated the Test appetite. Losing in a decent contest earns respect. New Zealand demonstrated pluck through the batting of captain Ross Taylor, the bowling of a youthful pace attack and the guile of offspinner Jeetan Patel. Even at 32, Patel showed he is an alternative coming out from Daniel Vettori’s shadow. In the second innings, Patel was treated lightly by Virender Sehwag and Suresh Raina before bowling them, while Cheteshwar Pujara was hesitant before flicking a catch. Patel deserved his three wickets in challenging circumstances.
Hopefully, though, New Zealand fans can resist reverting to apologist-speak like “rebuilding” and “moving forward” to describe the current team. Those excuses tire quickly in an era where there is more exposure to the international game than ever before from age-group level up. There is plenty of talent but more consistency is required. On the bowling front the India batsmen worked too many loose balls to the boundary with their wrists or “on-the-up” limited-overs style. The batting top order remains more miss than hit with porous defence. Taylor said afterwards they were disappointed with how they played in Hyderabad and wanted to show some fight and courage. They did so, but the onus is now on the players to avoid losing that desire to apply themselves in the longer form. For several of the team, patience is about to be replaced with premeditation at the World Twenty20. The Sri Lanka Test series is shortly afterwards and New Zealand need to further demonstrate that they have serious aspirations in the Test game to keep the public with them.
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