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Jeetan Patel top-scored with 47 AFP

As the third day of the Test dawned upon India’s perennial weakness came back to haunt them. In the past, we have seen the opposition’s tail-enders giving them a tough time. The similar script ensued on Sunday morning as BJ Watling and Jeetan Patel frustrated the Indian batsmen. From 128 for 7, New Zealand ended their innings at 204. The sun was out bright when proceedings began on the third day of the 2nd Test at Eden Gardens, Kolkata. It was expected to be overcast and India hoped that the duo of Bhuvneshwar KumarMohammed Shami would run through the New Zealand tail. The seamers bowled in the right channels but New Zealand stood defiant.

New Zealand wicketkeeper Watling not for the first time stood in the way but who expected Jeetan Patel to counterattack. The 36-year-old Kiwi veteran, who filled in for injured Mark Craig scored 47 from 47 balls, this is now his highest score in Test cricket. His innings consisted nine boundaries. Those who are surprised by the feat of the No.9 batsman, here is piece of stat, Patel averages 22.49 in First-Class cricket and has two hundreds for Warwickshire. There is a reason Ian Bell hailed him as “one of the best overseas players Warwickshire have ever had”.

The hallmark of Patel’s innings was his aggressive intent and playing on the front foot. He negotiated Ravindra Jadeja very well, scoring 22 from 22 balls off him. In the 46th over of the New Zealand innings, he survived a leg before decision despite umpire ruling him out. Jadeja had bowled a no-ball. However, he departed a few balls later when he tried to play an overambitious shot to Ravichandran Ashwin’s slow tossed up ball. Patel eyeing deep mid-wicket boundary skied a catch to Shami at mid-off.

VVS Laxman, who has averaged over 110 at Eden Gardens, conducted the pitch report. He mentioned that cracks on the playing surface have become loose at edges, therefore the variable bounce which troubled batsmen on first two days will continue to haunt batsmen more. In the 52nd over of the innings, Ashwin was belted for a six over mid-on by Trent Boult, the next ball, Ashwin tossed one up, the batsman drew forward and missed it. The ball went past Boult’s inside edge, turned back sharply and bounce beat Wriddhiman Saha. The misbehaviour of the wicket is alarming for batsmen. It was good to see New Zealand batsmen playing more on the front foot. Batting will be easier for India in the second session of the day and front foot is the way ahead for them.

Perhaps India can take a leaf out of Saha’s book. He played mostly on front foot and was brave enough to take blows on the body.

Wicketkeeper rescuers

On Day Two, India wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha batting with the tail rescued the side to 316 with a steady 54 not out. His New Zealand counterpart Watling, who has a knack of performing when chips are down, made Indian bowlers toil for his wicket. Watling sweats a lot, he ensured Indian bowlers did the same.

His resistance finally came to an end when a Shami reverse swing did him. Watling was playing well on front foot but Shami got to swing one in late and it beat the batsman’s inside edge thudding to the pads. However, his 67-ball 25 helped New Zealand to a total in excess of 200.

Poor turnout

The Day Three got underway and reportedly 3,000 turned up in the morning. The close-ups of crowd in the camera frame did not tell the true story, the long-shots did. Sunday morning and it is Eden Gardens in Kolkata. No doubt, the Durga Puja flavour has caught up. Maybe the salaries are being saved for Puja shopping and pandal hopping.

Rain break and comedy of errors

Around 40 minutes into Day Three, conditions got overcast and there was a light drizzle. Umpires asked players to go off and covers to come in. Virat Kohli was displeased with the whole issue and he had a long argument with the umpire.

In Eden Gardens, you can always expect some comedy around the corner. Many of the groundsmen did not know if they had to cover the ground or not. Some ran in and went out and it seemed it was the sequence of rewind and fast-forward. Indian players did not go off and the break was a short one. The rain-threat still looms large and might play a spoiler later in the day.

Bhuvneshwar, who picked up a five-for, was impressive on the third morning too but he failed to add to his wicket-tally. Shami added 2 to his overnight tally of 1 and Ashwin accounted for the wicket of Patel.

Brief Scores:

New Zealand 204 (Jeetan Patel 47; Bhuvneshwar Kumar 5 for 33, Mohammed Shami 3 for 70) trail India 316 (Cheteshwar Pujara 87, Ajinkya Rahane 77, Wriddhiman Saha 54*; Matt Henry 3 for 46, Trent Boult 2 for 46) by 112 runs.

Full Scorecard

(Suvajit Mustafi consumes cricket for lunch, fiction for dinner and munches numerous other snacks throughout the day. Yes, a jack of several trades, all Suvajit dreamt of was being India s World Cup winning skipper but ended up being a sports writer, author, screenwriter, director, copywriter, graphic designer, sports marketer, strategist, entrepreneur, philosopher and traveller. Donning so many hats, it s cricket which gives him the ultimate high and where he finds solace. He can be followed at @RibsGully and rivu7)