Cautious India maintain control

India's batting artists have not yet created a masterpiece but New Zealand still risk being painted into corner after a sedate second day of the first cricket test at Seddon Park.

The inadequacy of the BLACKCAPS first innings of 279 was laid bare today, though India were in no rush to reach it once a sluggish Virender Sehwag was run out by James Franklin's direct hit in the third over of the morning.

Sehwag's departure for a brisk 24 from 21 deliveries will not hinder India's ability to build a substantial lead but it seriously compromised the speed at which it will be achieved.

After Sehwag proved a poor judge of a second run, the prospect of India instigating another up-tempo assault on New Zealand's attack diminished as the home bowlers stuck to their task admirably.

India were a run adrift on 278 for four when bad light stopped play 6.1 overs before the scheduled close.

Sachin Tendulkar, batting for the first time since an abdominal injury forced a premature end to his majestic 163 in the third one-day international in Christchurch, restarts his slightly streaky 70 tomorrow.

Yuvraj Singh is alongside on eight with instructions to help blunt a new ball that is only 10 overs old.

Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Tendulkar and VVS Laxman all made middling contributions but for once New Zealand's seamers did not unduly suffer, although Kyle Mills' none for 70 from 15 represented the continuation of a disappointing summer against the Indians.

Otherwise New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori would be proud of his unit's containment role even if wickets were a rarity.

After Gambhir and Sehwag were lackadaisical between the wickets, it took another 32 overs toil before a New Zealand bowler celebrated a wicket.

An economical Martin was the beneficiary in his 13th over, belatedly marking his recall to the test side by ending Gambhir's stout resistance on 72.

Martin had further success when his second delivery with a new cherry flicked Laxman's blade enroute to Ross Taylor's midriff at slip. He recorded two for 53 from 20 overs.

Iain O'Brien also secured an important breakthrough in the middle session when he breached Dravid's resolute defences with a peach that nipped between bat and pad to clip the top of off stump.

Six New Zealand wickets toppled in the series' eventful opening session yesterday but a lineup of India's calibre was never likely to replicate that display of tentative strokeplay.

Gambhir atoned for his role in Sehwag's demise by adding 105 with Dravid for the second wicket in a classic stabilising stand.

The compact left-hander brought up his 10th test fifty from 95 balls and eventually faced 135 before he was squared up and edged to Brendon McCullum's gloves with the score on 142.

Dravid, who averaged 59.05 in nine previous tests against New Zealand, improved that impressive statistic record with a doughty 66 -- a 138-ball vigil punctuated by a dozen boundaries.

The 36-year-old was quick to credit New Zealand's bowlers for regulating India to three runs per over throughout the day.

"There was something in it for them right through the day. The ball kept swinging a little bit and when you bowled in good areas it wasn't easy to drive," Dravid said.

"You always felt you were never really in, you had to work hard for your runs. I got a pretty good one when the ball was 60 overs old."

His 27th test century beckoned until O'Brien bent a scuffed ball through the gate.

Tendulkar has not constructed one of his most aesthetic innings so far but crucially he is still available to push the tourists to what they hope is a lead of 150.

Tendulkar personified India's circumspect approach.

He laboured three hours and 118 balls to compile his 52nd test fifty -- though he came to life before the clouds closed in as India added 40 from the last 10 overs.

Should Tendulkar convert his start into a 42nd test hundred, New Zealand can curse bad luck and poor catching.

Tendulkar should have been dismissed on 13 when he skied a pull shot just beyond a diving Daniel Flynn at midwicket while two french cut boundaries also left Vettori pondering what might have been.

NZPA

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