Kolkata Skipper Virat Kohli had said before the start of the series that being on top in the World Test Championship table means little unless the team wins away from home. And one thing that has been India’s biggest strength in recent times – at home and way — is the bowling arsenal. But that is exactly where they faltered at Basin Reserve in the first Test against the Kiwis.
Led by Jasprit Bumrah, who is touted as one of the best pacers in world cricket, the Indian bowling attack has the experience of world-class bowlers like Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma. But at Basin Reserve against Kane Williamson’s men, the same set of pacers — barring Ishant — fell flat on their face and the Kiwi batters made hay.
Not only did New Zealand’s ace pace duo of Tim Southee and Trent Boult run through the Indian batting line-up to seal a massive 10-wicket victory, they also showed how it’s done in windy conditions despite both not being in the best of form coming into the five-day affair.
While Ishant grabbed his 11th five-for on Sunday, the support cast lacked venom as even the otherwise lethal Bumrah failed to make an impact.
Southee, who had a harrowing time in two T20 Super Overs as India clean swept the series 5-0, showed his prowess with the old ball as he returned match figures of 9/110. Boult, not in the best of form in the last 4-5 matches and coming on the back of an injury, nabbed five wickets in both innings and was also unplayable with the old ball, something which the Indian pacers failed to exploit. The senior Kiwi pacers had support from debutant Kyle Jamieson who took four wickets in the first innings.
Kohli said after the match: “We allowed them to bowl well for longer periods.”
While that is partly true, credit has to be given to how New Zealand stifled Indian batters including Kohli with the short ball. For the best part of India’s second innings, the hosts’ expert use of shorter lengths on a two-paced pitch turned the contest into one where both teams were playing the waiting game.
On the fourth and decisive day, India were 39 behind with six wickets in hand and 15 overs to go for the new ball. But Boult and Southee bowled exceptionally with the old ball on a wicket which aided swing as they switched from their ‘bouncers’ plan to look for more traditional modes of dismissals.
India’s bowlers were late risers in the first innings. With a paltry 165 to defend, much of India’s short bowling was to New Zealand’s lower order, who could afford to go after the bowling with their team already in the lead. Kohli also missed a trick by bowling R. Ashwin after taking the new ball which made the offie’s job all the more difficult on a track that had little for his kind. Bumrah still did not look his best while Shami never quite hit the right lengths.
Kohli said after the match that people from the outside want to put pressure on India by making a big issue out of this loss. Truth be told, for all their tall claims of being the best side in the world and priding themselves on their bowling battery, it was a sorry performance going by the manner of defeat.