In the second innings of the three-day warm-up match against Mumbai at Feroz Shah Kotla earlier this week, New Zealand experimented with their batting order. It wasn’t the change where no.6 opened or no.5 came out to bat at no.3 but the tailenders coming ahead of proper batsmen.
It was a deliberate move and Luke Ronchi, who scored a hundred in the innings, stressed on the importance of contribution from the tail in the three-match series. We saw the same when South Africa were here for the four-match Test series last year.
For India, R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja made some crucial contributions lower down the order, and those runs made a huge difference in low-scoring affairs, where spin played a bigger role.
On Thursday, at the Green Park, India were reduced to 261/6. The hosts didn’t have a long tail as they were playing with an extra batsman but contribution from the last four wickets was very important after the middle-order collapse.
Wriddihiman Saha, fresh from a hundred against West Indies, came out to bat after Rohit Sharma threw away a good start. New Zealand pressed for wickets after taking the new ball when it was due, and Trent Boult did the job for his skipper Kane Williamson.
The quick delivered a beautiful in-swinger which went through Saha’s gate and disturbed the woodwork. It was unplayable and demanded watertight defence to avoid the ball making contact with the three stumps on offer. Saha, facing only his second ball, was taken by a surprise as no bowler had come close to doing what Boult did during the delivery. An absolute peach!
Next to go was Ashwin as Boult squared him with another incoming delivery. The length meant Ashwin had to put bat to ball and all the right-hander could manage was a healthy edge to Ross Taylor at gully. Mohammed Shami next and the Boult delivery just too hot to handle for a no.10. Pitched on the stumps and coming sharply to hit the stumps. Through the unassured defence and Boult picked his third wicket of the day.
Boult made a huge favour to his skipper. The call of taking the second new ball is never too easy, and it can well backfire if the opposition goes on to make most of the hardness of the ball and score brisk runs. Williamson kept faith in his frontline seamer, and Boult delivered.
The fiery spell meant India could only add 15 runs and lost three wickets in the process. The day ended at 291/9, but it could well have been anything in excess of 325 had the tail wagged. Umesh Yadav did throw his bat towards the fag end when he collected two boundaries but he will be facing the music on the second day.
While spinners got New Zealand back in the game, it was Boult who gave the visitors the edge before the umpires dislodged the bails to declare stumps at Green Park, Kanpur.