It happened in South Africa. It happened in England. It also happened in Australia, and it has now happened in New Zealand, too. Despite being one of the strongest bowling line-ups in the longest format of the game, the Indian attack kept looking for answers as the Kiwi tailenders posed questions in a lethal set of cameos on Sunday, which could potentially be the difference between the two sides - the historical references indeed suggest so.
The select Indian fans who woke up in hope of an unlikely comeback were given a massive cheer on Sunday morning, courtesy Jasprit Bumrah, as he dismissed BJ Watling on the first ball of the day. The bowlers continued to maintain pressure and two overs later, Ishant Sharma also struck, sending Tim Southee on 6. The hosts were 226/7, and with a decent – albeit not strong enough lead of 61, they were staring at a batting collapse.
Then, it was almost as if the pages of the decades-old script were recycled and furnished into a new movie. The viewing experience, however, remained similarly tiresome and increasingly frustrating for the fans, who were now pondering on whether it was worth sacrificing the sleep on a Sunday morning. The New Zealand tail stuck on the crease – thanks to loose lengths and unorthodox captaincy decisions, allowing the hosts to steer away with the lead.
The Kiwis, who, at one point, stared at an early-morning collapse, finished the innings with a massive 183-run lead.
What went wrong?
Only one of the seven batsmen dismissed before the likes of Kyle Jamieson and Trent Boult stuck on the crease was dismissed on a short-of-a-length delivery. Even Ross Taylor, who was dismissed by Ishant, was caught off-guard on a good-length ball which took extra bounce.
However, we saw a flurry of short-length deliveries to the likes of Jamieson, Colin de Grandhomme and Boult. It was a particularly uncanny strategy to go short to 6’8 Jamieson, who slammed a six as his first boundary off Shami. The delivery, intended to be a bouncer, reached Jamieson on his chest, allowing him to go for a pull over square.
Similar lengths led to the Indian pace bowlers going for expensive overs, allowing the Kiwi tailenders to settle.
Four overs into the new ball, Indian skipper Virat Kohli made another unorthodox move which raised a few eyebrows – bringing off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin into the attack. Keeping the new-ball factor aside, Ashwin is not a particularly go-to bowler to contain the flow of runs as well – unlike Ravindra Jadeja. After playing his first over cautiously, Jamieson attacked the off-spinner with two big sixes off consecutive deliveries in his second over.
Boult also slammed Ashwin for a six for the final wicket-partnership. Yes, Ashwin also picked two wickets, but at the expense of 39 runs in eight overs.
History repeats itself
In the past, tailenders have frustrated the Indian bowling attack in away Tests, leading the home side to memorable victories. An Indian fan can hardly forget the brilliant 63-run innings from Sam Curran which steered England from 87-7 to 180 during the five-Test series in 2018, eventually aiding England to a 31-run victory. Curran also shined in fourth Test in the series, scoring 78 after England found themselves struggling at a strikingly similar position (86/6) in the first innings. England won the game by 60 runs.
In the current Test, while Indian team could only add 43 runs to their overnight score on the second day, New Zealand scored 132 more runs from where the side left on day 2. Will this be the difference in the game? Considering the past record, it could well be the case.