New Zealand was 165 for nine when the stumps were called after an engrossing fifth and final day at the Green Park
A wicket-less pre-lunch session, a flurry of wickets on either side of the tea interval and the incredible defiance from New Zealand’s last-wicket pair, India saw it all unfold with mixed emotions at the Green Park Stadium in Kanpur.
Eventually, two cricketers of Indian origin — debutant Rachin Ravindra and Ajaz Patel — kept New Zealand’s pride intact. They walked away after denying the dreaded spin trio of R. Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel for 52 deliveries on a deteriorating pitch to pull off a thrilling draw on Monday.
Rachin and Ajaz, the two left-arm spinners were required to bring out their batting skills to save New Zealand from going one-down in the two-match series. What made Rachin’s debut so memorable was the way he batted for 91 deliveries. Rachin’s batting sessions in spin-friendly conditions in Bengaluru during his India visits could not have paid off at a better time.
Last-man Ajaz, who was not very impressive with the ball, played his part to perfection by playing out 23 balls and contributed significantly to the eventual result. Though light was in question, India bowled its quota of 94 overs but could not find the final wicket.
For forcing a draw, New Zealand gained four points in the World Test Championship race. India, too, gained four but, more significantly, lost eight for drawing as host.
Latham, Somervile bat out first session
For the better part of the day, draw looked the most probable result after Tom Latham and night-watchman William Somerville batted out the first session by adding 75 runs.
Latham, the mainstay of the first innings, re-played the role by displaying his skills in dealing with the spinning deliveries. Somerville surprised the Indians with the ease with which he stayed firm. In fact, Somerville found the ropes five times – two more than what Latham managed.
Somerville’s departure to the first ball after lunch brought in Kane Williamson and the second-wicket stand produced 41 runs but more importantly, consumed 19.1 overs.
India makes an expected comeback, but falls short
Notwithstanding the steady third-wicket stand, India went on to collect eight wickets in the space of 76 runs. This did not come as a surprise since India scalped nine wickets for 99 runs in the first innings. However, despite flattering bowling figures, the spin trio fell just short of finding the match-winning wicket.
Showing the kind of intensity associated with him, Ashwin threw everything at the Kiwi batters and struck vital blows. With Latham’s wicket, Ashwin (418 wickets) displaced Harbhajan Singh (417) as the third highest Indian wicket-taker of Tests behind Anil Kumble (619) and Kapil Dev (434).
Jadeja bowled more effectively than Axar on this day. Jadeja troubled the batters with his faster deliveries that skidded through. Axar, unlike in the first innings, could not find the desired angle when bowling to the right-handers from the edge of the crease.
A disappointed India and a delighted New Zealand now travel to Mumbai. It remains to be seen how India, notwithstanding the impending return of skipper Virat Kohli, deals with the poor form of its top-order batters.