Black Caps and India battle on day two of final

Skipper Virat Kohli had raised 58 runs with Ajinkya Rahane when the players were forced off amid...
Skipper Virat Kohli had raised 58 runs with Ajinkya Rahane when the players were forced off amid fading light at the Ageas Bowl with only 9.1 overs played in the final session. Photo: Reuters
The class of Virat Kohli and more inclement weather denied New Zealand the opportunity to make the sort of inroads into the India batting lineup they might have expected in bowler-friendly conditions.

When stumps were called on day two of the World Test Championship final in England on Saturday (local time), India had reached 146-3 after 64.4 overs of toil, with their captain on 44 and vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane on 29.

No play was possible on day one at Southampton and with more rain forecast in the following days the odds on a draw and a shared trophy must surely be shortening.

The one-off match marks the culmination of a two-year cycle of the inaugural WTC, launched in 2019 to create a pinnacle event for test cricket

It was an impressive display by India's veteran right handers, who came together at 88 after New Zealand made three breakthroughs in relatively quick succession.

When poor light and eventually more rain combined to cut day two short by 33 scheduled overs it only added to the Black Caps frustrations. Things couldn't have gone much better for Kane Williamson in the morning – until the cricket started.

Under leaden skies and with the floodlights illuminating the Ageas Bowl, Williamson won the toss and had no hesitation in unleashing his all-seam attack on an Indian lineup more comfortable in hotter, drier climates.

As was widely expected, spinner Ajaz Patel was left out of the eleven, along with Will Young, Tom Blundell and Matt Henry – four players who played a huge role in New Zealand's win against England a week earlier.

Instead, Williamson and coach Gary Stead went with the players who have done it time and time again for their country.

With the brand new Dukes ball promising to swing prodigiously it was all set up perfectly, then New Zealand's most experienced bowlers laid an egg for most of the first hour.

Tim Southee went past the edge a few times and Trent Boult occasionally threatened to straighten one into the pads but the bad balls outnumbered the good and it was all a bit gentle.

Neil Wagner celebrates taking the wicket of India's Shubman Gill Action Images via Reuters
Neil Wagner celebrates taking the wicket of India's Shubman Gill Action Images via Reuters

Openers Rohit Sharma and the inexperienced Shubman Gill looked were offered enough gifts to keep the scoreboard ticking, while the latter was comfortable enough to advance down the wicket to the seamers. It was this tactic that almost cost him his wicket – and his health – when Kyle Jamieson got one rise off a length and smash into his grille.

It was Jamieson that turned things around for his team. He has been successful against India in the past and he was head and shoulders above his more experienced teammates in every respect in the match's first session.

He eventually drew Sharma (34) forward and found the edge of his prodding bat. Southee had not done a lot to enhance his bowling stats in the morning but his reputation as the best fielding fast bowler in world cricket grew when he took a stunning catch low to his right at third slip.

Given Jamieson's effectiveness, it was surprising to see Williamson remove him from the attack, even after a seven-over stint. The wisdom of that decision was immediately rewarded when Neil Wagner kissed the edge of Gill's bat with just his third ball and BJ Watling, in his final test, took a regulation catch to dismiss the opener for 28.

Cue Wagner's vein-popping exhortations and, more than that, a sense that New Zealand had truly arrived for the fight – albeit 90 minutes late.

India's most accomplished test batsmen – Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara – took India through to lunch but Boult struck early in the middle session when he straightened one onto Pujara's pads.

It was to be New Zealand's last success as Kohli and Rahane knuckled down and the gloom descended.

It will be India, you suspect, who will sleep easier. This was the sort of day tailormade for New Zealand's attack, yet they largely subdued them, helped by a rare off day from Southee.

In searching too hard for swing, Southee went fuller than the conditions required and Kohli in particular was happy to lean into half volleys and slide them in to gaps with a minimum of fuss.

Day three of this test, which will almost certainly require the six allocated to it, shapes as pivotal. A couple of quick wickets and New Zealand will put the jitters into India; if these two batsmen re-establish themselves, however, the route to victory looks daunting.

- By Dylan Clever 

Add a Comment

drivesouth-pow-generic-1.png

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter