There is a clear thread from the past that connects generations of Indian cricket - in a paradoxical way of course. Getting rid of the tail is definitely one of them - be it 2000 or 2021. As Tim Southee and Kyle Jamieson led the charge for the Kiwis adding 87 runs for the last four wickets as compared to India’s 35 runs, a sense of deja vu kept popping in. But the fact that India folded New Zealand out for 249 in a bowling show of discipline and control, credit must be duly acknowledged.
Mohammed Shami was fantastic as was Ishant Sharma. With a minimum of 20 wickets in the current WTC cycle, no pacer has induced more false shots than Shami. That Ishat sits on the second position on the table tells a story of its own. In the culmination of the two-year cycle, the duo put up a show of finality to put things into perspective as Shami’s control troubled both Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor. He kept landing on the full-length area to force the batsmen to a driveable position. So much so that Williamson took 105 minutes to hit his first boundary of the day.
Shami, who was constantly beating the edges and forcing the batsmen to lose control, handed India the first breakthrough of the day by dismissing Ross Taylor for a 37-ball 11. Henry Nicholls couldn’t last long either. Coming round the wicket, Ishant forced Nicholls to play away from his body as Rohit Sharma took a fantastic diving catch to reduce the Kiwis to 134-4. Shami then followed the burst with an exhibition of seam bowling when he caught BJ Watling plumb in front with an innocuous seaming delivery leaving Williamson, already strung down by lack of scoring options, guarding one end.
You couldn’t measure anything from that the way Williamson shifted his approach following Colin de Grandhomme’s dismissal in the afternoon session. It was quietly similar to Rohit Sharma’s second innings batting but in a more effective fashion. The Indian Opener played with an open hand and deliberately took on the deliveries on the pads to downsize the LBW option while Williamson attempted the occasional hooks and pulls but used his top hand more often to get to the pitch of the ball.
As India started the second innings, 32 runs behind from NZ's first innings total, Jamieson bowled more attacking length - with 19.4 percent of deliveries landing on the fuller length (4-6m) in the first spell as compared to 9.5 percent of his balls in the corresponding spell in the first innings - and that forced the duo of Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill had to curb their instincts. Southee contributed to the conundrum by bowling 40% of his balls in the 4-6 meter full length in both innings and eventually forced Gill to make a judgment error.
Rohit, on the other hand, seemed solid in tackling bad balls as well as leaving the ones coming on the probing line. After scoring at a strike rate of 75 in the first innings when pitched fuller (4-6m length), his strike rate came down to 52 on that length in the second dig. Despite all that, the 30s bug caught him off guard once again with another terrific inducker from Tim Southee hit the straps despite the Indian opener shouldering arms.
The game tilted in New Zealand’s favor further with that wicket as Criclytics, Cricket.com’s AI-driven prediction platform, giving the Kane Williamson-led side a 10% chance against India’s 2% chances. With Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara in the middle, batting on 8 and 12 respectively, the onus will squarely lie on their shoulders to extend the lead further to deny New Zealand to walk away as outright winners.