in Napier, Williamson and Ross Taylor had scored 79 runs off a total of 94 balls by the duo in their 123-run partnership.
It’s evident that they are economical, but they are not exactly running New Zealand dry. And they are not giving crucial breakthroughs up the order, either. Agreed Jadeja is taking wickets, but all of his wickets (twice Williamson’s) came when New Zealand were looking to cut loose in the later overs. They didn’t really hurt the hosts.
In fact, it’s almost as if India are playing in New Zealand’s hands. You may argue that these aren’t really spin friendly wickets, and that giving breakthroughs up the order is fast bowlers’ job. Fair point. But then why is Dhoni playing two spinners?
Ashwin’s study tour
Ashwin, meanwhile, is happy with his bowling and says he is learning on the job. “I had a tour of South Africa which was quite a learning curve for me. I have decided if I am giving my best that is all I can do. It can happen, you cannot keep taking wickets or making runs all the time,” Ashwin said after practice on Monday.
“I am satisfied with how I am bowling. I have sorted out what length and what kind of bowling needs to be done. There are certain ways you need to construct a spell abroad away from India. I have learnt that and put that into practice.”
The series returns to Hamilton on Tuesday which is the most spin friendly of New Zealand’s tracks. Tomorrow, the onus will be on Ashwin and Jadeja to put the lid on the Black Caps. With bat they can tie a match for India, but to win it they would have to deliver with ball.
Apart from the two spinners, one more bowler who needs to sort a few issues out is Mohammad Shami. With nine wickets, Shami is the second highest wicket-taker in the series, but he has struggled with consistency. He is nippy and tests the New Zealand batsmen with his pace and bounce but his line and length are often erratic. A ball bang on the money is often followed by a full toss or a wide or both. At times, it seems, he operates only in two zones: sublime or substandard.
His economy in this series has been 7.42. Only Ishant Sharma has fared worse.
That said, India have improved from Napier consistently. The alleged short ball problem was addressed. The openers were among runs in the last match, though more will be asked of them tomorrow. And overall, India have been chipping away at New Zealand. The 24-run loss was followed by a closer, 15-run defeat and the last match was a tie. A shift in momentum could be sensed here.
But New Zealand have one thing going for them: they can’t lose the series from here.