Rohit Sharma had just lost his composure and stumps to a Trent Boult delivery as he looked to drive away from the body only to play on. As India’s top-scorer in the first innings walked back having made 72, and leaving the team at 6/138, there was, ironically, a kind of anticipation in the air in a section of the stands where a bunch of Swami Army fans were making a lot of noise.
The source of the buzz walked out of the dressing room and onto the ground to the chants of ‘Ohh Ravi Jade-jaa, Ohh Ravi Jade-jaa’. Inspired by the cult bassline of The White Stripes’ song ‘Seven Nation Army’, the chant had the ‘Oh’ in it stressed, the ‘Ravi’ somewhat hurried through while the ‘Jade’ sort of held back before the extended release of the ‘Jaa’.
It was at a time when all hope was lost. Maybe, the fans were only looking to have some fun even as their team was keen on heaping more misery upon itself. Whatever may be the real reason, in Jadeja, the fans decided to back the right horse. First, the left-handed batsman first made an unbeaten 30 to push the Indian total past 200.
Then, in the field after New Zealand chose not to enforce the follow-on despite a 301-run lead, Jadeja took three crucial catches, including that of in-form Kane Williamson, and effected an all-important run-out, of the first innings double centurion Brendon McCullum, to give India a chance where none had previously existed.
But Jadeja, always the crowd favourite, had to share the limelight this time around. Mohammad Shami, who had toiled without corresponding rewards in the first innings, produced a memorable spell of fast bowling — 3 for 30 — in the second as he rattled New Zealand’s top order. Almost unplayable, he removed both the openers in his first two overs, before bowling Corey Anderson through the gate.
Losing early wickets has been nothing new for the hosts, but it’s their middle order that has bailed them out in this series. It failed for the first time as the usual suspects were done in by some spectacular fielding. Williamson was playing with soft hands, looking to weather the Shami storm when he was done in by Jadeja. The batsman looked to play the ball on the leg side, but couldn’t quite keep it down. At short midwicket, Jadeja dived full length to his right and plucked the ball centimeters off the ground.
Three runs later, he ran McCullum out with a perfect throw from midwicket after the batsman had been given a chance at slips by Murali Vijay. Rahane, too, took an inspired catch to see the back of Ross Taylor, who top-scored with 41. After the big wicket was gone, Ishant Sharma didn’t take long to clean up the tail to end New Zealand’s second innings at 105.
From looking like pushing for an innings win, New Zealand had conceded some ground in a space of one and a half session.
Their concerns compounded when Shikhar Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara walked back unbeaten with the scores of 49 and 22 respectively, having guided the team to 87/1 in 25 overs, still 320 behind the target, but with two days left.
Earlier, resuming at 130/4, India lost both well set batsmen, Sharma and Rahane, early on and never really recovered. They lost all their six wickets today for a meagre 72 runs. New Zealand not opting for the follow-on was a big talking point, but they had recently seen the West Indies batting for two days after following on to save the Test. But then they had also seen England saving a Test here in Auckland last year after not being asked to follow on.