The first test looks tilted heavily towards New Zealand as their bowlers shine with both bat and ball as India is fighting to make a match of it at the end of 3rd day as they have six 2nd innings wickets left but still trail by 39 . Starting at 216/5 ,Bumrah produced a fine short lifting ball to induce the edge of Watling of the very first ball of the day , soon Southee departed to make it 225/7 and Indian pacers were looking to wipe off the tail but age old traditional problem of unable to finish off the tail in a hurry, resurfaced again for India, as Jamieson indulged in a fruitful partnership with Dgrandhome and started to bat with aggression, something which the Indian bowlers least expected. Boundaries including mighty sixes came thick and fast as Jamieson showed no nerves and played proper cricketing shots to score 44 off 45 balls with 4 mighty sixes .Soon Grandhome was caught behind off Ashwin for a more sedate 43 but Trent Boult had other ideas and further tormented the Indian bowlers with a spectacular and often humorous display of unorthodox strokes which included mixture of baseball and tennis shots to score a rapid 38 off 24 balls to take New Zealand to 348, a big 183 run lead. Ishant Sharma (5/68) was India’s best bowler while others looked subdued for most of the innings. Once again lack of killer instinct by Indians against lower order opposition batting is already proving very costly for them in this test.
Prithvi Shaw flattered to deceive again in the Indian 2nd innings but Mayank and Pujara stonewalled against the threatening kiwi pace attack. Mayank looked confident and played impressive shots and even tried to rotate strike but Pujara went into a defensive cell, so much so that even rotation of strike became a rarity with him and finally he shouldered arms to a vicious Boult inswinger which rattled his off stump to end his painstraking 11 run vigil off 81 balls.
Mayank (58) like in first innings was dismissed when looking secured, caught down legside. Kohli looked jittery at start but steadied himself till at 19 decided to pull a well directed Boult bouncer to be caught behind for 19 much to the excitement of the Blackcaps. However India prevented further loss as Rahane and Vihari held on grimly till end. Rahane looked confident apart from his knock on the helmet off a Southee bouncer. India are 144/4 and still 39 runs behind on aggregate. Boult, who looked flat in the first innings and helped in enhancing discussions about Wagner replacing him in 2nd test, looked in fine rhythm and got back his vicious swing and zip off the surface to get three 2nd innings wickets and if he maintains this rhytm in remainder of the game, India will find it very difficult to regroup. However while the Kiwis hold all the aces , the Indians can still make a strong comeback ,if the current partnership goes on longer. A 250 run target in 4th innings will be challenging for New Zealand . However to achieve that the remaining Indian batting has to play out of their skins. Difficult but not impossible as the pitch still looks in good shape for batting.
The first session of day 4 is very crucial from India’s perspective .
Days 1 and 2 :
Earlier in the game India put in to bat first had a struggle right through a rain curtailed day 1 as New Zealand found a new star in 6’8″ debutant Kyle Jamieson whose steep bounce off a short of good length spot and movement off the seam made the Indian batters struggle. He got the key wickets of Pujara and Kohli , the former off an unplayable delivery with the ball pitching and seaming away to take the edge and setting up Kohli with short balls and then luring him outside off with a fuller delivery. Southee produced another classic delivery to bowl an aggressive Shaw (16) as the opener shaped to play towards onside. Mayank Agarwal (34) and Rahane looked good but Mayank undid his hardwork with a loose pull shot off Boult. Another superb seaming delivery from Jamieson had Vihari (7) caught behind and when rains stopped play for rest of the day India were 122/5 .
2nd day had Pant (a contentious selection ahead of number one keeper Saha ) starting promisingly with a 6 off Ajaz Patel but a terrible misunderstanding with Rahane had Pant (19) runout. Rahane (46) looked assured , played a good knock and adapted well by playing balls close to his body till he was caught behind off an inside edge. The lower order fell rapidly till some late hitting by Shami (21) took India to 165 with Jamieson and Southee sharing 4 wickets apiece . In reply though Latham went early ,Williamson played the innings of the match till date with a classy test match innings consisting of solid defence and classy shots. He never looked like getting out and had good stands with Blundell (30) and then Ross Taylor (44) who played solidly in his landmark 100th test and looked good for a bigger score. Williamson (89) too got out against the run of play driving Shami and was caught smartly by substitute Jadeja which helped India to get back into the game with NewZealand ending at 216/5 on 2nd day as Ashwin managed to get Nicholls late on 2nd day. Ishant was the best Indian fast bowler on the day bowling great lines and troubling all Kiwi batters with his bounce . He bowled a great inswinging delivery to get Blundell bowled. By comparison both Shami and Bumrah were under par by their standards. Bumrah coming back from injuries looked tentative and did not go flat out bowling at average speeds of 135 kph. Probably he will gain in confidence as he plays more matches.