Ravichandran Ashwin bowls during the fourth day of the first Test cricket match between India and New Zealand at the Rajiv Gandhi International cricket stadium in Hyderabad. AFP/Noah Seelam
The cacophony was dying down. A few spectators fidgeted in the stands, frustrated despite the pleasant breeze blowing across the ground. India’s fruitless one-hour effort prior to lunch — the game had a delayed start yet again — had led to frustration.
Brendon McCullum and Kane Williamson were dead-batting the deliveries and ensuring an unusually safe passage of play for the Kiwis on the fourth day. There were some good shots in between and some gentle dabs for runs. But for the crowd of 12,000, which later swelled to 20,000, there was very little action of note.
Immediately after lunch, the screen flashed that India had won the U-19 World Cup. The crowd roared. As if charged up, the Indians started to snare wickets. Five came between lunch and tea and that almost sealed the affair.
It was a frustrating beginning, though. MS Dhoni looked to polish off the Kiwis with his two spinners. Nothing materialised and Pragyan Ojha (with 11) and R Ashwin’s (7) first few overs didn’t yield returns.
R Ashwin bowls during the fourth day of the first Test match against New Zealand in Hyderabad. HT/Sunil Saxena
A desperate Dhoni then turned to his seamers, who had struggled on this track. Umesh Yadav dared to put one up and fortune favoured him. Off the first ball of his third over, he trapped McCullum leg before. Replays showed the Kiwi had nicked the ball but there was no doubt that he’d been beaten for pace.
The foot was in the door when skipper Ross Taylor, who survived an unconventional cordon of fielders in front of the square on the leg side against Umesh, shouldered arms to Ashwin’s stock ball. The ball turned in sharply giving Ashwin, in his own words, “one of the two best wickets of the match”. He finished with career-best match figures of 12/85.
Before the game, Dhoni had said he’d put Virender Sehwag at first slip in the absence of Rahul Dravid. Sehwag’s coach, AN Sharma, felt it was a tough job, meant for experienced players. Perhaps that’s why Dhoni put Viru there. “The fielder has to keep an eye on both the batsman and bowler,” said Sharma.
Sehwag was on the money. Ojha produced his stock beauty that drifted in, bounced and turned away. Williamson, despite a long vigil, couldn’t decipher it and edged it to Sehwag. He again showed sharp reflexes to remove Franklin, diving to his right and plucking a low catch. The rest of the batsmen just made up the numbers.
With four days to go before the next Test in Bangalore, India would like to put their feet up. For New Zealand though, there is serious hard work to do. “We have to make adjustments to a bit of technique and more of mind,” said Taylor.
R Ashwin and Team India celebrate after defeating New Zealand by an inning and 115 runs in Hyderabad. HT/Sunil Saxena