New Zealand inch closer towards World Test Championship title

·3-min read

Southampton, Jun 23 (PTI) Rishabh Pant lived by the sword and died by it while his India seniors found it difficult to survive against a probing New Zealand attack, which left its batsmen with a gettable 139-run target to win the World Test Championship final.

By tea on the sixth and final day, India had another batting disaster with only 170 runs in their second innings leaving New Zealand with a target that they are expected to chase.

At tea, New Zealand were 19 for no loss with 120 runs to get in 45 overs in the final session.

If New Zealand manage to win it with a session left, they would certainly considered deserving winners, being able to force a result despite two full days being lost due to rain.

It was one of the worst batting performances on a good track with sun beating down and the Indian batsmen never found the going get easier.

Kane Williamson is probably one of the few captains who have now got Indian team out for less than 250 in six consecutive innings, a testimony to his brilliant cricketing acumen and near perfect execution by his bowlers.

Tim Southee (4/48) did the early damage with his swing bowling, Neil Wagner (1/44) bowled those hard 'rib cage' overs coming round the stumps and Trent Boult (3/44) with his ability to bring it back into the left-hander made it for a brilliant few hours of Test cricket.

And then, India's nemesis Kyle Jamieson (2/30), who again got his 'bunny' Virat Kohli, third time in three Tests and twice in one to make it an icing on the cake.

Rishabh Pant fought for two and half hours for his 41 but it was more intent and less content as a cavalier devil may care approach didn't get him too many runs.

The catch that Henry Nicholls took while running backwards was as good as one would witness at this level. Pant's dismissal did hamper India's chances but before that an inspirational piece of captaincy from Williamson left an indelible mark.

He got Wagner to come round that wicket to Jadeja and the left-arm 'pounder' went wide enough to nearly cut the side crease and angled one for Jadeja to nick it behind the stumps.

Before that delivery, he had bowled short balls pegging the batsmen on backfoot and then ensured that his feet doesn't move to the pitch of the ball.

However Pant's approach of dealing with the New Zealand attack was better than being in the shell, something that did more harm than good for Cheteshwar Pujara (15 off 80 balls).

Before Pujara, the extra bounce outside the off-stump had the Indian skipper feeling for it and BJ Watling got the easiest of catches in his final game for Black Caps.

Pujara, whose abilities of grinding out bowlers has reached mythical proportions and once again he was never looking to score. The pressure was always there and Jamieson fired one in with the angle. Pujara wanted to remove his bat but it seemed the ball tailed him and Ross Taylor got a regulation catch.

Ajinkya Rahane (15 off 40 balls) also didn't last long and as it has happened with India often, their tail didn't wag save Mohammed Shami (13), who sashed three fours before Williamson cleverly deployed a 'fly third-man' (neither short third-man nor traditional third man) for a slash over slips which promptly landed in the fielder's palms. PTI KHS BS BS

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