For multiple reasons, India were in the driver’s seat before the start of Day 2’s play, in the first of the two-match Test series against New Zealand. Firstly, having scored 258 runs at the loss of only 4 wickets, Ajinkya Rahane’s boys were likely to cross the 400-run mark without breaking much sweat.
To add to that, the track at Green Park in Kanpur tends to help the spinners, and India had two mightily experienced spinners in Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, alongside the in-form Axar Patel. Hence, though it is always tricky to predict the result of a Test match after just one day, but from what we saw yesterday, India seemed all set to get themselves a lead in the series.
All assumptions, however, have fallen flat on Day 2, where New Zealand came up trumps. Kane Williamson’s boys managed to bundle India’s innings under 350 and then went on to score 129 runs at the loss of zero wickets, giving them a big advantage ahead of the third day.
Southee Magic to start the day
While Kyle Jamieson was New Zealand’s best bowler on Day 1, it was Tim Southee’s turn to shine on Day 2. He almost trapped Ravindra Jadeja leg before wicket in the very first over of the day, and in his next over, he eventually got the better of Jadeja, when the all-rounder chopped on a good length delivery into his stumps.
While Southee was difficult to tackle in the initial overs of Day 2, Jamieson did not look particularly threatening, as Iyer amassed runs off his bowling fairly comfortably. In the 92nd over of the match, he brought up his maiden Test century, becoming the 16th Indian batter to score a century in his debut Test.
In the next over, Southee got his second scalp of the day, when he got the better of Wriddhiman Saha. The big wicket, however, came in the 97th over of the game, when Iyer skied his shot straight to Will Young at cover.
Southee got his fourth scalp of the day in his next over, with Axar Patel being the victim this time. From looking all set to score 400, India found themselves struggling at 313/8. Ravichandran Ashwin and Umesh Yadav temporarily found a way to stop the continuous flow of wickets.
With ones and twos against the likes of Jamieson and Ajaz Patel, the Ashwin-Yadav dup eventually put a 26-run stand, as India found themselves at 339/8 at Lunch. A little bit more resilience would have taken India over 350, but that was not to be, as the Kiwis came all guns blazing after lunch.
In only the second ball after lunch, Patel dislodged Ashwin’s stumps, and then in his next over, he caught Ishant Sharma leg before wicket. India’s innings was brought to an end at 345, and while Iyer, Jadeja, Ashwin and Shubman Gill were impressive, the likes of Ajinkya Rahane and Wriddhiman Saha will need to step up if they want to retain their place in the Test side.
India’s bowling unit fails to deter Kiwi openers
While Southee was the star of the first half of Day 2, we witnessed a batting masterclass by New Zealand openers, Tom Latham and Will Young in the second half. They grinded out 57 overs without losing any wicket, while also scoring 129 runs.
The start, however, was not comfortable. Umesh Yadav troubled Tom Latham early on and with a bit more control over his line and length, he could have provided India with the first breakthrough. At the end of 8 overs, the Kiwis had scored only 10 runs, but more importantly, both batters got their eye in.
Once settled, Young and Latham started playing a bit more attacking brand of cricket. Ashwin did not trouble the openers, and while Jadeja got Latham leg before wicket in his first over, review showed there was a big inside edge, and the decision was reversed simultaneously.
From there onwards till the end of the second session, there were not many notable incidents, except that fours starting to come off more frequently. At tea, New Zealand were 72/0. Same story continued in the last session, as Young brought up his half-century in the 27th over of New Zealand’s innings.
Having brought up his fifty, Young took the charge on the Indian bowlers, while Latham took baby steps towards his half-century. Jadeja found himself at the wrong end of DRS once again in the 35th over, when his review for an lbw shout showed the ball sliding down the leg side.
While Latham toiled hard to get to his forties, Young crossed the 70-run mark with ease. The reintroduction of Ashwin troubled the former, but he eventually brought up his 21st Test half-century in the 55th over of the innings. He was adjudged out caught behind the next over, but DRS came to New Zealand’s rescue once again, as replays showed that there was no contact between the ball and bat, but the bat had instead smashed on the pads, which made the noise. With this being the last notable incident of the day’s play, New Zealand find themselves in a decent position – still trailing by 129 runs, but having all 10 wickets in hand.