THEY FINALLY got lucky with the third-ball change of the day. The first change had come about within the first handful of overs so it didn’t really have much of an impact. But neither the second ball in use nor the third that was brought into play in the 51st over was helping the Kiwis generate the much sought-after reverse swing.
It wasn’t without effort. Skipper Kane Williamson and Tom Latham were spending at least two minutes each rubbing the ball against various parts of their attire. But to no avail. But of the two deliveries that Jimmy Neesham delivered in the 62nd over with this one, the first jagged back sharply into Virat Kohli while the next straightened and squared up Ajinkya Rahane.
Finally the Kiwis had something to play with. There was movement in the air. This was their chance to break the stranglehold that the two Indians had placed on them. Not surprisingly, Williamson immediately turned to his pace spearheads, Matt Henry and Trent Boult. As it turned out, Boult would deliver probably his worst spell of the tour.
He was either too wide or too short and hardly gave the ball much of a chance to swing. And he was off within two overs.
At the other end, though Henry did trouble Rahane with a couple of short-pitched deliveries that lifted off the surface, he too was a mixed bag. Finally after keeping India on the leash for a majority of the first two Tests with the ball, the wheels were coming off for the Kiwis.
It wasn’t surprising though. When you have given it your all under the searing Indian sun for two weeks and had the opponent and mat before failing to seize the initiative. And especially when the score-line reads 2-0, you can understand why the Kiwis had finally begun to lose the plot. Why they had finally started to wilt against the Indian onslaught.
False start for pacers
Boult and Henry hadn’t started too well either, as Indore’s first-ever Test began in manic fashion. The Kiwi new-ball bowlers were a bit all over the place and Gautam Gambhir playing his first Test in two years hooked Henry for sixes off consecutive deliveries in only the fourth over of the innings. It resulted in New Zealand turning to spin, Jeetan Patel, earlier than they ever have in this century and he even got rid of Murali Vijay in his first over—the fifth of India’s innings.
Boult and Henry did pull things back well during their second spells before the lunch-break with the former accounting for Gambhir. But like they’ve done earlier on the tour as well, they let India slip. Generally it’s been teams—like England in 2012—who have won the pressure moments that have managed to overcome India’s nearly-indomitable might at home. In Kolkata, India were 46 for 3 and the Kiwis had to wait till the score was 187 before their next scalp while in the second innings at Eden Gardens they let India rebuild from 106 for 6 to a total of 209.
More hope than planning
Though Kohli and Rahane do deserve their due for overcoming whatever the Kiwis threw at them, it was obvious that Boult & Co were for the first time operating more with hope than a plan as the fourth wicket partnership began to take complete control of proceedings. The second new-ball might have brought some hope for the visitors but Boult was again off-colour and they let the Indian pair score 38 in the last 10 overs thus giving the Indians more or less complete control of the third Test.
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