India find form against New Zealand XI as Ishwar Pandey claims three
While skipper MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli were rested, India's Test specialists returned to the side but it was rookie pacer Ishwar Pandey who stole the show against New Zealand XI on the first day of the tour match.
India's faltering cricketers found some rhythm as they reduced New Zealand XI to 262/9 declared on the opening day of a two-day practice match which was skipped by big guns of the team including skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
In reply, the Indians were placed India were placed at 41/0 in 14 overs after New Zealand XI declared in 78 overs in the only practice game ahead of the two-match Test series starting February 6 in Auckland.
After a dismal ODI series that was surrendered 0-4 to New Zealand, the Indian team enjoyed a good outing at the Cobham Oval, albeit in a non-competitive match.
For India, Dhoni and Virat Kohli were missing as they stayed back in Auckland, enjoying some rest after a hectic ODI series. Ravindra Jadeja was the third player missing from action, although he did travel with the team to Whangarei.
As it happens in such two-day practice matches, 11 players from each side were stipulated to bat or bowl.
India's Test specialists who flew in this past week -- Zaheer Khan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Murali Vijay, Umesh Yadav and Wriddhiman Saha -- were all included in the playing eleven.
Meanwhile, Mohammad Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar were not listed to bowl, but came on for fielding duty as a couple of Indian batsmen spent some time practising in the nets as well.
New Zealand XI's captain Anton Devcich, the lone player in the squad to play for the national side, won the toss and elected to bat first, after 97 overs were stipulated to be bowled each day.
Openers George Worker and Robbie O'Donnell put on 81 runs for the first wicket as the hard work for Indian bowlers seemed to carry over from the ODI series.
O'Donnell, captain of the New Zealand Under-19 team for the upcoming World Cup, warmed up with a nice half-century, scoring 80 runs (124 balls, 13 fours).
R Ashwin (2-45) provided the breakthrough and then Zaheer (1-42) removed skipper Devcich cheaply, before another little partnership worth 57 runs came up between O'Donnell and Jono Hickey.
Their partnership was broken post-lunch by Ishant Sharma (2-58), who dismissed O'Donnell for 80 runs (124 balls, 13 fours).
It opened the floodgates as wickets started falling at regular intervals after that. Ishwar Pandey came on to bowl after the first hour of play and was the pick of the Indian bowlers thereafter, scalping 3-42 in 14 overs.
It was his first proper outing on this tour so far, and he didn't look rusty at all. He bowled a consistent line and length, earning just reward for his effort.
Hickey held the innings together, scoring 45 runs off 85 balls (seven fours), even as wickets fell at the other end. Ashwin and Ishant picked up their second wickets, while Umesh Yadav (1-70) took one as well, with the hosts losing five wickets for just 60 runs after O'Donnell's dismissal.
Roald Badenhorst threw his bat around at the other end taking the score past 250-mark before the hosts chose to declare with 14 overs to spare in the day.
Indian openers Shikhar Dhawan (16 not out) and Murali Vijay (19 not out) weren't troubled too much as they closed out the play without any loss.
New Zealand XI: 262/9 in 78 overs (Robbie O'Donnell 80, Jono Hickey 45; Ishwar Pandey 3-42, R Ashwin 2-45, Ishant Sharma 2-58).
India: 41/0 in 14 overs (Murali Vijay 19 batting, Shikhar Dhawan 16 batting; Tipene Friday 0-15, Ian McPeake 0-10).