Other than New Zealand, no one here would have grudged the break India enjoyed due to the rain at the Green Park on Friday. Till that time, Kane Williamson and Tom Latham had been winning the battle of attrition, focused on a surface that required work. They parried and milked everything the Indians threw at them.
The handful of spectators yelled in delight once the sun emerged from the clouds. Perhaps, they felt they’d finally get their money’s worth, having endured heat and humidity to witness an Indian success, which hardly came by.
Their hopes were short-lived as the last session was called off. But their team seemed relieved, as was evident from the broad smile on batting coach Sanjay Bangar.
The India bowlers had failed to execute the plan, if there was one, and in desperation began to not just plead but demand a wicket from the umpire on anything missed by the batsmen. The appeals showed frayed nerves.
The start was encouraging though. While India’s last pair managed to take them past 300, Umesh Yadav got Kiwi opener Martin Guptill early.
It looked like it would be just another story of how a foreign team collapsed once the top 2-3 batsmen were dismissed.
But Kane Williamson, who on arrival at the crease whirls the bat like Virat Kohli, is made of sterner stuff. The No 3 batsman is stoic, remains unruffled and is said to be a thinking man. He is in contrast to his predecessor. Lean unlike the beefy Brendon McCullum, his batting style is also different from his former captain’s, which was mostly brutal.
While his partner Tom Latham used the sweep shot liberally and to good effect, just like he did successfully against Pakistan two seasons back in the UAE, Williamson’s feet were almost always in the right place. He covered the turn to manoeuvre the ball to the leg side, dead-batted when he suspected it could take off, gave himself room to carve runs on the offside, and when the need arose to counter R Ashwin’s irritating line on the off, he swept him for runs from wide of the off-stump. Throughout his unbeaten knock of 65, he was fluent.
For long, experts have suggested Ashwin try that line to get wickets but Williamson was up to it, covering and smothering the spin completely.
Not that Ashwin & Co were inconsistent throughout, although the offie improved towards the latter part. Williamson did survive some close calls, like when a part of his headgear almost fell on the wicket or when the ball sneaked through bat and pad.
Bangar hasn’t lost hope. Aware how teams visiting India collapse once a partnership breaks, there is a chance that if the India bowlers pull up their socks, New Zealand can meet the same fate. For that to happen, the bowlers need to dismiss Williamson.