It hasn’t been the best of days for Team India, but skipper Virat Kohli will heave a sigh of relief at Stumps on Day 2 as his bowlers picked up a few quick wickets, including dismissing the in-form Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor to marginally stay in the game as New Zealand slowly extended their lead over the visitors.
Mohammed Shami got rid of the dangerous Williamson who, at 89, fell tantalisingly short of a deserved hundred before Ravichandran Ashwin dismissed Henry Nicholls to leave the hosts at 216/5 at the end of 71.1 overs, despite being 160/2 at one stage.
BJ Watling (14*) and Colin de Grandhomme (4*) were holding charge for New Zealand out in the middle.
For a change it wasn’t Ishant Sharma doing the magic as has been the case for India ever since they took field aiming to defend their paltry 165-run total.
Well settled and raring to go, Williamson drove one away at off-stump but the ball came a tad slower off the surface, ending up as a sitter to substitute Ravindra Jadeja at cover.
Williamson stayed true to his words of tackling Indian fast bowlers with a patient approach and it bore fruit for the Kiwi star who brought up his 32nd half-century in Tests in the process. He dished out a few glorious drives and kept the scoreboard ticking with the singles and two with his partners and played a captain’s knock until heading back for a soft dismissal.
Not too long before Williamson headed back, Ishant Sharma had struck back again for India, as the veteran fast bowler dismissed Ross Taylor on 44 just moments after New Zealand had gone past the 165-run total India had put up batting first.
But it was the partnership that he built with Taylor — 93 for the third wicket — that took the game beyond India’s reach although the visitors rarely had been in it.
Taylor headed back after holing one to Pujara off Sharma in the 53rd over — his innings laced with six boundaries and a six. Besides being the more aggressive of the two, Taylor also brought up the shot of the match when he tossed Ravichandran Ashwin over the mid-wicket boundary for the only six of New Zealand’s innings.
Despite India’s below-par show, Ishant Sharma had moments to cherish for though as the lanky pacer emerged as the pick of the bowlers for his side picking all three wickets – New Zealand openers Tom Latham and Tom Blundell besides that of Taylor.
Latham was the first to fall after he edged one down the leg side to Rishabh Pant. It was a harmless delivery and perhaps didn’t deserve a wicket but owing to the faint edge it took en route to Pant’s gloves, it earned India a wicket right as the post-lunch session began.
From 26/1, Blundell then built a steady partnership with Williamson as the two stitched 47 runs for the second wicket; relying mostly on singles besides picking the odd boundaries in between. However, just when it seemed Blundell would use the start to good effect, Ishant ran through his defence to leave the hosts 74/2 at the end of the 24th over.
Latham and Tom Blundell had played out the eight overs before lunch on a cautious note to help New Zealand leave field at the end of the first session in driver’s seat.
Earlier, New Zealand bowlers, led by Kyle Jamieson and Tim Southee, carried on from where they had left on Day 1, wrapping up the Indian innings at 165. The Indians had resumed play at their overnight score of 122/5. Rain had interrupted play at the end of the second session on Day 1 and not a single ball was bowled in the final session on Friday.
Ajinkya Rahane ended as the highest run-scorer for India with 46 off 138 deliveries. He did manage to stitch a 31-run stand for the sixth wicket with Rishabh Pant, but a terrible mix-up saw the latter end up short of his crease for the first wicket to fall on Day 2. Pant was in good nick and had also struck a six but the premature end to his innings meant India were reeling at 132/6 at one stage.
Southee then cleaned up Ravichandran Ashwin with a peach of a delivery, quite similar to how he had got rid of Prithvi Shaw on the opening day, before Rahane edged one behind to head back with the score at 143/8. That, however, triggered the pinch-hitter in Shami to go after the bowling and he smashed three boundaries for his 20-ball 21 to help the visitors go past the 150-run mark.
Test debutant Kyle Jamieson, who had picked up three wickets on the opening day, then got into the act to remove Ishant Sharma before Southee notched his fourth wicket of the innings to clean up the Indian tail.
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