New Zealand lost three wickets in the second half of the last session on Day Two but are still ahead of their opponents India in the first Test at Wellington. The foundation was laid by Tim Southee early morning who accounted for the wickets of R Ashwin, Ajinkya Rahane and Mohammed Shami.
Rishabh Pant was already run out in the fifth over of the day in an awry mix-up with Rahane. The disappointing passage of play witnessed the visitors bundled out for a paltry 165 adding only 43 runs to their overnight total at the cost of five wickets.
The early morning burst by New Zealand pacers underlined the importance of the full-length deliveries today - the length that brought the downfall of Ashwin and Rahane. The Indian pacers failed to notice the pattern and obsessively bowled the back-of-the-length deliveries in their eight-over spell before lunch, hence, wasting the new ball.
Indian bowlers spent the next session and a half searching for the right length, except Ishant Sharma. The 31-year old fast bowler exploited the full length more often than Shami and Jasprit Bumrah in the second session and was awarded with the scalp of Tom Blundell.
India seemed in the game but it was the time for New Zealand’s most prolific batting pair - Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor - to take over. The duo added 93 runs for the fourth wicket, putting the Black Caps ahead of India.
On a day when India bowled with minimal accuracy for the most part of the day, Williamson fed on loose deliveries completing his fifty off 93 balls - one of the better paced innings in his Test career which shows how wayward were the Indian bowlers. Approximately 61 percent of his runs against pacers came off the back foot which highlights how short the bowling was to him.
However, Indian pacers did get their length right at the business end of the day. Mohammed Shami, who had been the biggest culprit of bowling short amongst the Indian pacers, corrected his length forcing Williamson to mistime one of his drives and was subsequently caught by the substitute fielder, Ravindra Jadeja, at cover.
Williamson’s dismissal - for 89 - came 10 overs after Ishant had removed Taylor for 44. The departure of two of New Zealand’s batting greats lifted the spirits of the bogged down Indian unit. Virat Kohli, who had employed defensive fields during Williamson’s presence at the crease, placed two slips for Ashwin bowling to the left-hander, Henry Nicholls.
The move paid off and India found their fifth wicket of the innings. Ashwin induced an outside edge off Nicholls’ bat with a delivery that angled in but straightened enough to end up in Kohli’s hands at the second slip.
BJ Watling looked solid again in his stay at the crease before the umpire deemed the light unfit for further play. Watling will hold the key to build New Zealand’s lead (51 so far) on a pitch which can become treacherous to bat on in the fourth innings.
Earlier in the day, The lower-order batsmen - Ishant and Shami - added 22 runs for the ninth wicket. The brief partnership could have been broken earlier but Ishant used the DRS to good effect. Later, Williamson dropped a dolly with the ball going through his reverse cup.
Kyle Jamieson, having picked three wickets yesterday, once again dented India's progress by dismissing Ishant Sharma to bag his fourth. In the next over, Shami succumbed to Southee in one of his well-known attempts to clear the boundary ropes.
Ajaz Patel started the day's proceedings for New Zealand but stayed on only for one over - to enable Southee and Trent Boult to bowl from the end from where they started the Test match. Pant took the opportunity and slammed the fourth ball of the day for a six to get things underway for India.