India’s dominance over New Zealand is apparent in the ongoing three-Test series. But it is not to say that the visitors have not put up a fight.
There have been multiple occasions over the course of the last two Tests that India have been pushed onto the back foot. Invariably, in these situations, it has been the lower order that has propelled the hosts back into the driver’s seat.
It is not just the fact that the lower order has clicked, but the consistency which has only made their effort remarkable. Led by wicket-keeper Wriddhiman Saha, the lower order, also consisting Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin, shone in both games coming into bat in position six, seven and eight.
In Kanpur, India were placed precariously at 209 for five. Rohit Sharma had not quite found his rhythm when Ashwin’s entry changed the scenario. The duo added 61. Later, it was Jadeja who came to the party and took India past 300, a difficult task considering Kiwi bowlers, Trent Boult and Mitchell Santner were at their best.
In the second essay, Jadeja once again came to the fore with a half century, adding some valuable runs to take the game out of New Zealand’s reach.
A similar story unfolded in the second Test in Kolkata, when India were placed at 200 for six in the first innings. It was left to Ashwin and Saha to resurrect the situation. Saha took charge and stitched a crucial 30-run partnerships with Ashwin and then Jadeja. Saha remained unbeaten with a well-made 50 and took India past the 300-run mark.
In the second essay India had a sizeable lead of 112 runs, but gave New Zealand some hope after the top order collapsed to leave India at 106 for six.
Saha provided perfect support to Rohit, who was the set batsman struggling to find partners. Saha and Sharma took India to 209 before Rohit departed. Saha remained unbeaten on 54 as he rallied with the tail to take India’s lead close to 400.
With captain Virat Kohli a little off-colour in the series, with his highest being 45, the load has predictably fallen on the other batsmen. While, the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit have turned in a few bright performances, it is the lower order which has made the match-defining contribution.
Their impact has been crucial, enabling India to bat deeper than they ever had in the last couple of years. As they face New Zealand in the third and final Test from Saturday, expectations will once again be high from the consistent bunch.