152/1, trailing India’s total by 166 is something which New Zealand would have taken with arms wide open before they walked into the green for the historic Test at Green Park, Kanpur. Pitch, turn, spin, and more of the same had dominated the pre-match talk, but that didn’t affect the visitors as they went about executing their plans, as easy as you would like.
First was the show with the ball. At 154/1, India were in a similar position in the first innings. New Zealand struggled, but didn’t lose hope. Kane Williamson kept faith in his bowlers, and poor shot selection by India helped them in the afternoon session on Thursday.
The afternoon session is where New Zealand pulled things back and it was the same period where India threatened. After an ordinary start to the second play, where they could add only 27 to their overnight total, India lacked bite with the ball.
Spin, as expected, was introduced early but, something which we didn’t expect, the visitors countered the spin threat with a well chalked-out plan. Not often have we seen visiting teams play India spinners off the backfoot. Yes, Ashwin and Jadeja’s poor length early on helped, but New Zealand operated with a clear had.
The sweep was effectively used and the approach to spin, if not pleasing to the eye, kept the scoreboard moving and, frustratingly for India, kept kept the wickets column dry. Martin Guptill was out early, but since then it was only one way traffic.
Both Tom Latham and Kane Williamson, fresh from good hits in the warm-up fixture against Mumbai, applied themselves brilliantly in the middle. They played the waiting game early in their innings and slow, in fact little, turn off the surface helped.
Ashwin and Jadeja were guilty! Virat Kohli introduced the latter early into the attack, but Latham didn’t allow the left-arm spinner to settle down. The sweep was used regularly and Williamson kept giving strike back to his partner before switching to brisk mode.
Luke Ronchi was asked in Delhi last week on what was the best approach to play spin, the wicketkeeper-batsman quickly shot back and said, “take a single and get off strikes”. Both Latham and Williamson did the same and ran well between the wickets. Out of the 152 runs scored, 60 came in boundaries and 10 belonged to sundries.
Ashwin and Jadeja didn’t go for plenty of runs, but only two maidens between them shows how well the Kiwis rotated the strike and didn’t let the pressure of dot overs dominate their play in the middle.
India had a couple of moments in the game. One came when Latham’s sweep hit his boot before popping in the air for KL Rahul at short-leg. The fielder juggled before the ball made contact with his helmet. The third-umpire gave it not out. And, Latham restored order with another sweep! The second moment too came off Jadeja’s bowling when Williamson went for the cut, missed and the fielders went up in appeal for caught-behind. Umpire wasn’t interested but replays suggested a clear sound there.
Apart from these two moments, there was nothing which went India’s. Jadeja’s brisk 42 was a positive, but plenty of negatives make it a poor day for the hosts. The ball did start to grip and turn, but when it could have got worse for the Black Caps, rain came down and players went off the field to not return.