New Zealand finally caved in. After two days of resolute cricket and successfully swimming against the odds created by conditions alien to their technique and temperament, they gave up.
Kane Williamson’s dismissal created by a mix of Ravichandran Ashwin’s magic with the spinning ball and some help from the track, must have been a hammer blow that left them shattered.
Imagine shaping to cut a ball wide outside the off stump, but finding it spin and bounce so sharply that there is no time for the bat to even move a millimeter, let alone come down from the high back-lift the shot warranted. As the ball rammed into the stumps while Ashwin and the rest broke into their customary jig, the expression on a disconcerted Williamson’s face told the story of the day.
The turning ball, the appealing fielders on a warpath and the umpires coming into action time and again, it was all so very familiar. While Ashwin, through multiple variations, be it the carom ball or the traditional off spin, had the batsmen entangled in a maze of confusion, Ravendran Jadeja was slicing through them with the ease of a seasoned professional.
Ashwin is the more effective and celebrated bowler in these conditions, whereas Jadeja’s left-arm spin, his nagging accuracy and very subtle changes of speed leave the batsmen bemused.
He had five wickets, to Ashwin’s four as the two turned the match in such quick time that by the time the New Zealanders had realized what had hit them, they were already back on the field bowling again.
The first innings lead in such an unpredictable situation, where one never knows what could be a good score to chase or defend, is always important.
India were the ones who seized that initiative, and in the context of the match, the last-wicket partnership between Jadeja and Umesh Yadav of 41 runs in the first innings could come to haunt the Kiwis long after the match is over.
Jadeja, who the world came to know of because of his IPL exploits, is innately a very traditional orthodox cricketer, whose appetite for runs and wickets in first class cricket is well known. He is not a huge turner of the ball, in fact he spins it marginally and relies a lot on the straighter ball to fox the batsmen. That perhaps is the reason why the ratio of lbw or bowled is very high among his victims.
There were a couple of occasions when the batsmen may have felt aggrieved at being given out lbw. But on tracks where either the ball is turning too much or not at all and the fielders are screaming and expanding their lungs to full capacity, it is hard to be an umpire. And without the aid of the DRS, it can get worse, a fact that the Indians should realize, especially when their turn comes to complain.
Buoyed by the first innings lead, the Indian batsmen threw caution to the winds and attack became their first line of defence. K Rahul’s innovate adventurism may not have lasted for long, but his stroke-filled cameo gave India the momentum, leaving the New Zealanders wondering had the nature of the wicket changed dramatically.
As the clouds were making a futile attempt to shield the players from the sun, a shower of boundaries from Vijay and Pujara in the evening stamped India’s complete dominance of a day that had held so much promise for the New Zealanders in the morning.