New Zealand coasted to an unlikely eight-wicket win on the sixth - and reserve - day of the World Test Championship final against India at the Hampshire Bowl last week. The match, in which two days were lost to rain, saw a strong performance from Kiwis on the reserve day as their bowlers ran through the Indian batting line-up and dismissed them for just 170 runs. And then they scaled the 139-run target through a 96-run third-wicket partnership between Kane Williamson (52 not out) and Ross Taylor (47 not out).
India got a sniff of victory when offspinner R Ashwin removed the two openers early and bowled a tight line to Taylor. However, Taylor smashed Ashwin for two boundaries in one over to break the shackles and then coasted along. Earlier, India, who started the day at 64/2, lost three wickets - skipper Virat Kohli (13), Cheteshwar Pujara (15), and Ajinkya Rahane (15) - in the first session to go to lunch at 130/5. Kyle Jamieson (2/30) removed Kohli and Pujara while Rahane fell to Boult (3/39).
Post lunch, India kept losing wickets as the tail failed to wag once again. Rishabh Pant, who was the innings top scorer with 41 runs, was the last hope for India but he fell to a rash shot as the seventh wicket with the score on 156. Pace bowler Tim Southee picked four wickets for 48 runs to end as the most successful New Zealand bowler.
Indian seamers, in response, failed to make an impact on a pitch where New Zealand bowlers looked unplayable. Barring a brief spell during which Ashwin unsettled the Kiwis by removing Devon Conway (19) and Tom Latham (9), the entire bowling unit looked innocuous. This is New Zealand’s sixth successive win over India in ICC tournaments, dating back to World T20 in 2007. The Indian tail’s failure to wag has made things easy for the Kiwis, since they know they have to get past the top order to restrict India.
India has now failed to get to 200 on four occasions in the last six outings in Tests against New Zealand. In contrast, New Zealand’s tail has wagged, helping to competitive totals. In the first innings, New Zealand’s last four wickets added 87 runs as they went from 162/6 to be 249 all out, helping their team take a 32-run lead.
The 87 added by New Zealand’s last four wickets follows 132 and 82 they had added in the two completed innings of the first and second Tests during the home series against India in early last year.
Think-tank plans slew of changes
Indian think-tank is busy tying out all loose ends before India and England walk out at Trent Bridge to start the much-awaited five-match Test series. They’ve requested the BCCI to ask the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) for two four-day warm-up matches in July. One of those two matches will be against England Lions (their ‘A’ team) while for others are being planned.
Lack of similar preparation ahead of the World Test Championship (WTC) Final hurt this Indian team as it struggled both with the bat and the ball against a raging New Zealand that had just won a series against England in England and were brimming with confidence. Outside of these two warm-up matches, Team India will conduct its own intra-team games before heading to Nottingham. The team arrived in London from Southampton and will be based there until the warm-ups begin.
On the bowling and batting front, there are questions that need serious and immediate answers. For those answers to come through, this Indian team understands it’ll have to take some “very bold decisions” at the earliest.