End of the Test – New Zealand (132/3, won by 7 wickets)
After suffering another heavy defeat in alien conditions, India’s skipper, Virat Kohli praised the New Zealand bowlers for being consistent for a longer period of time and not giving enough opportunities. Going by the ease with which the Kiwi batsmen – on the back of their openers – wiped out the target, their bowling effort late on the second day seemed a bigger factor than India’s shoddy batting effort.
In the hindsight, the delight on Trent Boult’s face after breaching Cheteshwar Pujara’s defences with a big inswinger late on the second innings was a nod to his skill and execution.
Having considerably nibbling through the target in the morning session of the third day, the Kiwi openers came out with an early finish in mind. Unleashing their drives on any delivery pitching close to them, the duo hit some mellifluous boundaries – touching the half-century mark for themselves in the process.
Stat Alert - The New Zealand opening partnership lasted for 84.3 balls on an average in this series - the highest against India since their tour of South Africa in 2013.
Until Tom Latham’s dismissal, off a bouncer from Umesh Yadav, the Indian seamers seemed to be going through the motion, giving an impression that a target of even 250 would not have been enough. Yadav erred once again on the shorter side and Jasprit Bumrah’s being too full. Ravindra Jadeja’s introduction accelerated the process as Tom Blundell took a liking to him.
Like a flickering candle before dying out, Bumrah had some respite for himself just before the end of a disappointing tour. Taking a leaf out of Sam Curran, in spirit, Bumrah bent his back, forcing the ball to jump off a length that Kane Williamson could only fend to the slip cordon. Bumrah then let out a yell in exasperation after knocking Blundell’s off-stump out of the ground with an in-swinger.
All this was too little too late for Bumrah and India but it did end the earlier perceived notion that the Kiwis would have easily chased a bigger target as well.
Kohli spoke at length about accepting this defeat and going back to the drawing board. However, with white-ball cricket being the focal point for the next 9 months, an inspection of the red-ball performance is unlikely within the time till present becomes history amid the limited over glitz.
Lunch – 46/0 (15 overs, need 86 runs to win)
As it often happens, the conditions looked distinctly different when the other side came to bat. The Kiwi openers, similar to the first innings managed to see off the new ball and put together a steady stand.
To make matters worse for India after their dismal second innings show with the bat, Shami, India’s best bowler in the Test so far, felt some discomfort in his right shoulder and did not take the field.
In a clear difference in standard at which the three main Indian pacers operate, Umesh, erring with his coordinates, bowled a few deliveries on the shorter side of a conducive pitch, providing opportunities for the openers to play their release shots. Latham pulled and cut him while Blundell punched him past extra covers.
A slight spark in India’s attack started in the ninth over when Bumrah’s delivery nipped in a long way, catching some wood on the inside edge off Blundell’s bat. Pant, unable to reach the moving ball, put down the chance. Latham survived two LBW chances and a first-innings like dismissal on the next three balls.
Mohammed Shami, back on the field, followed up with a purposeful over, pushing Latham on the backfoot and thumping his grill with a bouncer. Bumrah then induced an edge of Blundell in his next over that fell short of Kohli in the second slip.
Blundell ended the testing passage with a stamp of authority. He cut a wide ball from Shami over point with disdain, moving up a stride from a makeshift opener to a likely permanent option for the Kiwis now.
End of innings – India (124/10, 46 overs; NZ need 132 runs to win)
It took the New Zealand bowlers – Tim Southee and Boult – only 48-mins and a bargain of 34 runs to clean up India’s last four wickets.
Hanuma Vihari started positively, hitting Southee through the covers for four in the third over of the morning. To his misfortune, an innocuous delivery down the leg, two balls later, took the middle of his bat into the keeper’s gloves.
Pant’s sorry show in the Test ended with a tame dismissal. In conditions where he should have been fearless and aggressive, he looked edgy and uncomfortable. Nibbling at the ball away from his body in an ungainly manner far too often, he nicked an away going delivery from Boult. His approach at this level is once again in question only this time, unlike white-ball cricket, he is guilty of not being aggressive enough.
Highlighting his importance in the team once again, Ravindra Jadeja did not hold back and started playing his signature shots – making room and hitting towards long-on. He collected a six and a four but that came after India were 9 down. While he was batting with Shami for the ninth wicket, he treated him as a proper batsman, not shying away from giving him the strike early in the over. Shami, true to his style, did not hold back for long as he skied a ball off Southee straight to square leg.
Bumrah did manage to stay for 11 balls but this time, a miscommunication to bring Jadeja back on strike in the next over created confusion that resulted in a run-out.
After India were four down with half an hour to go on the second day, Yadav walked in as the night-watchman. The move proved futile as India not only lost one more established batsman after that but also the night-watchman himself. To add another drawback to the move, Jadeja, the only batsman that added some substance to India’s total, ultimately fell short of partners.