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India vs NZ: Lack of spine and character defines India’s loss against New Zealand in the First Test

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Virat Kohli’s dismissal in the second innings summed up the confusion in the mindset of Indian batsmen – lack of clarity and game plan

india v/s NZ test series 2019-2020
image source: hindustantimes.com

Trent Boult and Tim Southee combined to take 14 wickets as New Zealand won the 1st Test by 10 wickets against India.

In his captain’s speech at the end of the match, Kane Williamson mentioned how good it was to have Trent Boult and Tim Southee bowling together. It’s a combination that has been together for a very long time. Before they had both played internationals, they had played domestic cricket together.

For more than a decade, Boult and Southee have been combining to dismiss batsmen. They are really a perfect combination too, asking similar but different questions. Boult is a left armer, so his natural line has the ball going across a right handed batsman, but then he is able to swing the ball back in. Southee is a right armer, and tends to bowl wide of the crease. His natural line sees the ball coming in to the batsmen, with his standard variation taking the ball away. Boult is relatively short, and releases the ball over his front foot, so it gets to the batsmen quicker than they expect, while Soutee is relatively tall, bowls with a slower arm action, and has a high release point, so the ball tends to get to the batsman slightly later than they expect.

India Last 5 Tests in NZ

YearTrophyCityIndia CapTeam2 CapResultScorecard
2014New Zealand v India – 2nd TestWellingtonMS DhoniBrendon McCullumMatch drawnScorecard
2014New Zealand v India – 1st TestAucklandMS DhoniBrendon McCullumNew Zealand won by 40 runsScorecard
2009New Zealand v India – 3rd TestWellingtonMS DhoniDaniel VettoriMatch drawnScorecard
2009New Zealand v India – 2nd TestNapierVirender SehwagDaniel VettoriMatch drawnScorecard
2009New Zealand v India – 1st TestHamiltonMS DhoniDaniel VettoriIndia won by 10 wicketsScorecard

India started the third innings in a position where all three results were still possible. While it would have required some excellent batting, the third innings at the Basin Reserve is traditionally an easy time to bat. The average team score in the third innings in the 20 years before this match at the Basin Reserve was 390. That’s higher than any ground that has hosted at least five Tests in that time. Instead, after 45 overs, India’s hopes were almost completely extinguished, courtesy of three wickets from Boult and one from Southee. There was still a chance that Ajinka Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant and Ravichandran Ashwin could have held the bowlers out. The pitch had dried out, and the ball was old. But Boult and Southee were not to be denied. Boult added one wicket and Southee picked up four more to combine (along with one from Colin de Grandhomme) to clean up the last 6 Indian wickets for only 47 runs.

There is no doubt that the New Zealand bowlers bowled exceptionally well and Kohli was the first person to acknowledge that fact. Ajinkya Rahane and Mayank Agarwal were two batsmen who got the balance of attack and defence right through the match.  Rahane tried to disrupt Colin de Grandhomme’s length by taking a couple of steps down the pitch off the 13th ball he faced.  However, that would be the only time any innovation was tried.  Even during the second innings, while batting with Kohli, Rahane had tried riding the bounce before unleashing a rigorous pull shot. Standing at the other end, Kohli gave him the thumbs up. Rahane’s decision to take on the short ball looked like a spontaneous decision. It was almost like he felt that it was the best way to negate the short ball. 

It has been a season of discontent for the Indian skipper. After four years of staggering batsmanship, the invariable reversal of fortunes and form seems to have caught up with him. In the Test he made 2 and 19; in the ODIs and T20Is, his scores read 9, 15, 51, 11, 38, 11, 45. It’s been three months since he has scored a hundred. In fact, his last three-figure across formats came in November against Bangladesh.

The captain’s own poor form has coincided with that of the three other pillars of India’s Test team—Cheteshwar Pujara (11 & 11), Jasprit Bumrah (one wicket in the last five games) and Mohammed Shami (1/91 in Wellington). 

“There is no doubt we will try and win the next Test. We are not going to play in any other fashion. Whatever it requires us to do as a batting unit, a bowling unit and a fielding unit, we are definitely going to come out and do that. We are not bothered about another loss but we are not going to take a backward step, that’s for sure,” Kohli signed off.


This article was originally published in FirstPost.com


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