As soon as India arrived at the Green Park on Saturday morning coach Anil Kumble and Ravindra Jadeja were at the pitch. Skipper Kane Williamson and Tom Latham had resisted the efforts of Indian spinners before rain halted play late on Friday.
That meant Indian spinners had their task cut out on the third day. Kumble pointed the rough areas caused by the bowlers’ foot-marks. The discussion worked wonders for Jadeja, who spun his magic to pull the Test towards India.
The decisive over came in the post-lunch session, when the left-arm spinner scalped three wickets to finish with a five-wicket haul, handing the hosts a crucial 56-run first innings lead.
That Kumble had a match-winning haul at Green Park in 1999 made a big difference. In the 1999 Test, he took 10 wickets, including six in the second innings against Stephen Fleming and Co to seal an eight-wicket win.
Besides Kumble’s reading of the wicket, Jadeja must be thankful to Kiwi left-arm pacer Neil Wagner for the rough caused on his follow through. Most of Jadeja’s deliveries came off those foot marks, and his last over made all the difference.
“He (Kumble) asked me to bowl in the rough, look for angles and bowl from wide of the crease. There were a lot of foot marks around the off stump area. He told me those marks will work on the minds of the batsmen.”
In fact, Jadeja could have become the third Indian bowler to take a hat-trick in Tests after Harbhajan Singh and Irfan Pathan if he had planned the fourth delivery of his last over better. Off the second ball, he trapped left-hander Mark Craig in front. Ish Sodhi was gone first ball, failing to read another quick one to also fall leg before.
However, for the hat-trick delivery, to tail-ender Trent Boult, Jadeja chose to have just four men around the bat and tossed up a straight one, which the batsman defended easily.
An arm ball could have made the difference. This was proved when Jadeja got rid of Boult with the last delivery of the over. He tried to defend a quick one and the ball popped up, via boot, at silly point, where Rohit Sharma held a sharp catch.
India, 215 runs ahead at stumps on the third day, will look to extend their lead on Sunday before trying to bring the Kiwi batmen under pressure as more poor weather is forecast.
Kiwi stumper BJ Watling acknowledged the footmarks will make a difference on such a pitch. “As you’d expect with a day three wicket, there is a lot more rough, lot more footmarks and it’s getting a bit slower in the middle of the track. We know it’s going to get tougher into day four and day five.”