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Wriddhiman Saha’s maturity takes India past 300 against New Zealand

Given the first innings often sets the tempo of a Test, New Zealand may have lost their edge in Kolkata by not snipping India’s tail quick enough.

cricket Updated: Oct 01, 2016 22:49 IST
Somshuvra Laha
Somshuvra Laha
Hindustan Times
Wriddhiman Saha,India vs New Zealand,Ravichandran Ashwin
Wriddhiman Saha plays a shot on the 2nd day of 2nd Test Match against New Zealand.(PTI Photo)

Given the first innings often sets the tempo of a Test, New Zealand may have lost their edge in Kolkata by not snipping India’s tail quick enough.

In the first innings of the Kanpur Test, the last four India batsmen scored 51 runs. At Eden, that number rose to 87, thanks to a brave unbeaten fifty by Wriddhiman Saha.

Shepherding India’s tail, for the next few years at least, should fall on the shoulders of R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja or Saha. Ashwin’s capability with the bat already firmly established, Jadeja and Saha have home season to show how much they can matter at crucial junctures where India need that propulsion from a 200 plus score to just above 300. Jadeja did it at Kanpur. At home, it was Saha’s turn.

In terms of importance, Saha’s innings on Saturday stands right up there with the century hit in St Lucia. What made it a little more difficult was the quality of opposition. Trent Boult started the day with a bouncer that Saha swayed out of the line. The drives weren’t coming through and at times even his stride wasn’t assuring. But he still took his chances, hitting Boult for three boundaries in the space of six deliveries. “The pitch was seaming a bit. The idea was to convert some balls into boundaries and rotate strikes otherwise we would not have got past 250-260,” said Saha after close of play.

What possibly helped him considerably was New Zealand’s decision to introduce spin. Saha is known to have pronounced weakness against short deliveries and often pays the price for taking his eyes off the ball too early. And New Zealand were looking hostile as long as they were bowling bouncers to Saha and Jadeja. In fact, that accounted for Jadeja’s wicket when he was caught at long leg trying to hook a shoulder high short ball.

But Mitchell Santner’s introduction eased the pressure on Saha. In his second over facing Santner, he came down the pitch to loft him over covers for a boundary. Next time Saha faced Santner, the left-arm spinner was whacked for a boundary before six over long-off. All this while Saha also didn’t forget to farm the strike cleverly and occasionally walking up to speak to Bhuvneshwar Kumar and last man Mohammed Shami.

He trusted his partners’ instincts though. “We have a good understanding with everyone. So we can convert, rotate strikes. Everyone in our team can play shots,” he said. That belief helped Shami be his own man with three important boundaries after Kumar perished for five. By the time Shami was bounced out, Saha had achieved what he was seeking --- taking India past the psychological barrier of 300 runs.

First Published: Oct 01, 2016 21:14 IST