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The captivating first Test between India and New Zealand once again displayed the longest format in good light. Abhijit Banare captures key points that changed the game.
1) The dropped catch that set up the 221-run stand between Brendon McCullum and Kane Williamson
On a green top, under overcast conditions, having the opposition three down for just 30 runs, India held the aces. The in-form batsmen Kane Williamson and Brendon McCullum were under pressure and the nervousness was visible. India could have easily grabbed the opportunity by sending back Williamson when Murali Vijay in the slips floored a regulation slip catch. Williamson was on 32 then and went on to share a 221-run stand with McCullum. The Kiwis piled on the runs and McCullum benefited from loose deliveries at regular intervals as they crossed 500. And Ishant Sharma bagged 150 Test wickets and a six-for but the Kiwis had already got enough on board.
2) India fall apart again
It was yet another below-par outing for the Indian batsmen in the first innings or let’s say they realised a touch too late that they had handed over the reins of the match to India on the second day itself. Unlike the Indian pacers, Tim Southee and company strangled India when they were down 15 for three. And with all due credit to the pacers, it was the batsmen who gave their wickets away with poor shots. Even on the third morning, both Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane got out to poor shots knowing the fact that patience was the order of the first hour play. Without looking at what ensued later in the day, conceding a 301-run lead is often throwing the match away.
3) Indian bowlers exceed expectations
Perhaps MS Dhoni himself would have been surprised looking at the disciplined bowling in the second innings. Mohammed Shami who was unlucky not to get his wickets in the first innings, this time around got the rewards for his impeccable line and length. And it was from here, Ravindra ‘sir’ Jadeja made his difference by latching on to some brilliant catches. He had done it in the first innings as well, but removing Williamson early with a fine catch gave them the control. Even Ishant used his height and got the ball to rise awkwardly. The persistent pressure and some reckless shots saw New Zealand crash out to 105.
4) Shikhar Dhawan leads India’s run-chase
After the spirited bowling performance came the resilient batting. First Vijay and Dhawan got off to a solid start. Though Vijay was unlucky to be adjudged caught behind, Dhawan did remarkably well to suppress his aggressive instincts once he settled in. Being short of runs can lead to a batsman experimenting a lot. But Dhawan held himself together even on the crucial fourth morning. When Southee was testing the batsman, Dhawan did well along with Virat Kohli to give a realistic chance of chasing the score.
5) ‘Sir’ Jadeja and the drama unfolds
After Rohit departed, first ball after tea India were down 278 for six. Against the new ball, both MS Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja didn’t have the technique to survive the swing and come out on top against the likes of Tim Southee and Trent Boult. But Jadeja carved his own way of dealing with the new ball by forcing it to lose its shape by consistently slogging. The first ball he faced was slapped back for a boundary. In just 34 balls, the duo had added 54 runs and the see-saw battle continued. Jadeja lived by the sword and died by it. His dismissal was virtually the end for India but with Dhoni there, tight finishes are a regular affair. But it was too much to ask from him to depend on Ishant.
6) New Zealand pacers fire collectively
Southee leads the attack, Boult complements from the other end and Wagner strikes the big wickets to maintain the pressure. This has been a pattern. In both innings, Wagner struck key wickets. With new ball they delivered to a plan and didn’t give too many freebies. In the second innings, India were well on their way to a win, if Wagner hadn’t removed Kohli and Dhawan, before the arrival of the new ball. Wagner turned out to be the bowler who landed the knockout punch after India were softened by Southee and Boult.
7) Want to blame the DRS and Umpires?
In case you are least interested in holding the Indian team responsible, there’s an option of ignoring all the above highlights and throw the dart straight to Richard Kettleborough and Steve Davis. Oh! Not the umpires but possibly the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) as well. As for the New Zealand supporters, BJ Watling’s dismissal off Ishant’s bowling came off a no-ball. In hindsight one can say the Kiwis could have posted a few more runs, if he had been there. There were few other dismissals, like Shami’s leg-before appeal in the first innings against Peter Fulton, Vijay’s invisible edge in the second innings. But the two big dismissals on the second day proved to be crucial. Rahane who was playing confidently was given out leg-before despite getting an inside edge, in the nervous final moments, Dhoni seemed to have been bowled by Wagner whose landing foot appeared to have touched the outside of the crease, which according to rules is a no-ball.
(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)
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