Chris Martin, who turns 36 on December 10, is perhaps the oldest fast bowler in contemporary international cricket. He is New Zealand's fourth highest wicket-taker in Tests, after Richard Hadlee, Daniel Vettori and Chris Cairns. Before Sunday, he had two five-wicket hauls in 24 Tests on foreign shores.
There are no marks for guessing that Martin will rank this fifer against India as the best of his deeds away from home. A Test match degenerating into a one-sided contest between bat and ball, prospects of the dullest of last days looming large and New Zealand satisfied with a respectable effort with the bat — Martin changed quite a few things.
Few would have expected a depleted New Zealand attack forced to hand the new ball to left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori to trouble a bunch of batsmen with monumental achievements. Martin not just troubled them, his prodigious in-swing left the vaunted batting order in tatters in a matter of just a few minutes. People struggled to remember the last time when India were reduced to 15 for five at home.
Martin saw Gautam Gambhir misjudge the angle of his third delivery which resulted in an inside edge held behind the wicket, got Rahul Dravid to poke tentatively at one that held its line after pitching, slipped one through the gate off the inside edge of Sachin Tendulkar and forced Suresh Raina to help one to first slip following the diagonal line of the ball and swing. His first spell of 9-6-15-4 hastened the unthinkable.
In his 10th year in international cricket, Martin is well past what is known as prime for fast bowlers.
He had a total of eight five-wicket hauls in 56 previous Test appearances and he has been part of 14 Test wins for New Zealand over the years with four five-wicket hauls in those games. Curiously, apart from two matches in Zimbabwe in 2005, he has never been part of a side which won Test matches abroad.
Martin will also remember that the last two times he took five wickets in an innings away from home, against Australia and South Africa, New Zealand ended up losing those matches. Monday gives Martin and his teammates a chance to set that record straight. No marks for guessing who would be the Man of the Match if that happens. Bad luck Kane Williamson, who hit a hundred on debut, in that case