Zaheer Khan (C) celebrates the wicket of New Zealand's Ross Taylor (top) during day three of the first Test at Eden Park in Auckland. (AFP Photo)
The last time India won a Test abroad was in the West Indies, the first Test at Kingston in June 2011. Since then, they have lost 10 of their 13 Tests with two of the three draws coming on that Caribbean tour. On Sunday, they raised hopes of ending the barren run by pulling off a sensational chase, only to lose their way in the end.
Although India might look positively at how close they came to pulling off the massive fourth innings target of 407, the batsmen should take the blame for not completing the job after their bowlers provided the opening by cheaply dismissing New Zealand in the second innings.
Coming on top of the 0-4 loss in the ODIs, it leaves the visitors facing more questions about the inability of the batsmen to convert talent into performances.
In South Africa, India could not drive home the advantage on the final day of the first Test. A batting collapse allowed the Proteas to win the Durban Test by 10 wickets.
Although they were set 407 for victory at the Eden Park, where India had never lost in four previous games, it seemed the visitors could get an unlikely win when they were cruising at 222 for two. Ironically, it was the well-set Virat Kohli’s dismissal that gave the Kiwis a foothold in the game.
Once Shikhar Dhawan also fell to the old ball, it provided the opportunity for the host pacers to strike with the new ball.
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India skipper MS Dhoni praised the overall fightback but was unhappy that the batsmen didn’t make it count on a pitch that was good for batting. He felt it was time they started putting the game in context, something that was done time and again by the retired middle-order stalwarts.
“Capitalise. It is a very easy thing to say in one word but a lot of thinking and experience goes behind it,” he said. “Games like these, even if you play one, gives you the experience of three-four Tests. You have to start thinking, if we get this partnership going, what needs to be done at the end of the third day maybe. It is also important to look ahead as to what needs to be done, what will happen to the wicket, whether it will dry out, assist the spinners or not.”
He wasn’t too happy with the manner in which Virat gave his wicket away with the Kiwi attack at his feet, although he was conscious of not being harsh.
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“You may be asking the right question, but if I try to explain, it will seem I’m pointing at individuals,” he said when asked if Virat’s dismissal was the turning point.
“We lost wickets after the 85th over also. The second new ball would have moved for maybe five-six overs maximum. That was the period when, if we had not given our wickets, we would have got those 40 runs. Also, we had a bad decision (Rahane’s dismissal).”