Indian pacer Ishant Sharma’s brave bowling effort saw its counterpart in Kane Williamson’s classic textbook shots as New Zealand ended the second day of the opening Test match against India with a lead of 51 runs in Wellington on Saturday (February 22).
After the lower-order collapse that tied the tourists for 165, Ishant shook the Kiwis by taking three wickets for 31 runs in 15 overs and dismantling Williamson’s 89-run effort to bring the day-end score to 216 for 5.
Ishant, who came straight back from an ankle injury, was well supported by Mohammad Shami (1/61 in 17 overs). Shami removed Williamson, who couldn’t check an uppish drive. Henry Nicholls (17 off 62 balls) struggle seemed to have hampered Williamson’s rhythm.
During the final hour, Ravichandran Ashwin (1/60 in 21 overs), who also bowled beautifully throughout the day, relieved Nicholls of his agony with a delivery that had drift and a hint of turn as India skipper Virat Kohli snapped the low catch at second slip.
Williamson looked good as he hit some delightful strokes square off the wicket. The square drive on the rise off Jasprit Bumrah (0/62 in 18.1 overs), followed by a cover drive, showed his class.
In all, the New Zealand skipper hit 11 boundaries off 153 balls.
Bumrah, in particular, was punished by Williamson, who also back-cut him for a boundary and Taylor then punished another half volley through the covers.
Either Bumrah bowled too full and drivable length deliveries or too short that even Rishabh Pant failed to gather the ball over his head.
This was where Ishant came into the picture. While he was lucky to get opener, Tom Latham, out with a delivery drifting on leg-stump, the other opener Tom Blundell (30) had a typical Ishant dismissal written all over it.
The ball was full on the off-stump channel and jagged back enough to find the gap between his bat and pad.
“Actually, the wicket became slow. It had tennis ball bounce at the start but when we bowled, there was no seam movement available,” Ishant said after the end of the days play.
Williamson and Taylor then had a partnership of 93 runs during which New Zealand also got the lead before Ishant, coming back for his third spell, bowled one that reared up from good length and proved to be an easy catch for Cheteshwar Pujara at short-leg.
“I was just not holding the ball on-seam as kookaburra goes soft after 40 overs. When the seam really gets soft, you need to come hard and hit the length very hard and bowl cross seam,” said the seasoned pacer.
Looking good for his 22nd Test hundred, Williamson, in his bid to get another boundary, couldn’t check a cover drive and the low catch was taken by substitute fielder Ravindra Jadeja.
Earlier, New Zealand’s debutant Kyle Jamieson (4/49) and veteran Tim Southee (4/49) took four wickets apiece as Indian innings folded in 68.1 overs. The duo took four of the five wickets that fell on the second morning with India adding only 43 runs to their overnight score of 122/5.
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Rishabh Pant (19) started with a six but then a horrible mix-up with senior partner Ajinkya Rahane (46) resulted in a run-out and the little chance of recovery was gone for good.
Southee then got rid of Rahane when he tried to shoulder-arm a delivery that made a late inward movement. Mohammed Shami’s entertaining 21 then enabled the visitors to cross the 150-run mark.
“You always want to be one wicket less than what you are. The way we were able to finish India off today was a great start. We saw a couple of good partnerships from our batters, if we can carry on tomorrow morning, get a couple of partnerships and try and build that lead, going into second innings it will be nice,” Southee said.
(With inputs from agencies)