TURNING POINT: If only Kohli had avoided playing that ugly pull of a wide ball.
India fell to a tenth defeat in eleven overseas Tests when they went down by 40 runs to New Zealand in a thriller at Auckland. The match traversed the vicissitudes of victory and defeat and all the ambiguity that lies in between. Here’s an analysis of what went wrong for India, tabulated under headers straight from the mouth of captain MS Dhoni.
“So there were quite a few things that did not go our way"
India’s aversion to the DRS returned to bite them in the arse. Ajinkya Rahane got a bad decision at a crucial stage in the fourth-day chase when his big inside edge went undetected by the umpire. Later, at perhaps an even more critical juncture, Dhoni was given out played on although replays suggested that the bowler Neil Wagner had cut into the side crease during delivery stride.
While bad calls are part and parcel of the sport and work overall to cancel each other out – BJ Watling was given out off a no-ball during the Kiwis’ calamitous second innings! – Rahane’s and Dhoni’s dismissals had a rather direct bearing on the eventual result.
New Zealand quell India in a thriller
No small achievement: McCullum
“Anyone and everyone can drop catches”
Murali Vijay’s contribution to the Test match was a dropped catch of centurion Kane Williamson in the Kiwi first innings. Agreed, Vijay did get an unplayable delivery from Wagner in the first innings, but that doesn't acquit him for having dropped a sitter. Williamson was on 32 when his edge was fluffed by the napping first slip. He went on to score 113 and added 221 with Brendon McCullum to seize back the initiative. Another problem the visitors failed to check - a malaise repeatedly highlighted by the venerable Sunil Gavaskar on air, was that their spread out cordon was standing too far back. As a result of this, edges died before reaching the fieldsmen. Gavaskar also highlighted the reluctance of Indian slip catchers to crouch and maintain a low centre of gravity. Hopefully, India's overpaid support staff would have had their ears open.
"I think it is mixed emotions”
Despite the defeat, there were some positives. Shikhar Dhawan, in the crosshairs for diminishing returns after his scintillating Test debut last year, played out of his skin to compile a second Test hundred, his first overseas. Dhawan’s approach was most gratifying as he showed an intent to spend time in the middle and cut out the frills from his usually attacking batting. Another positive was India’s second innings bowling.
Mohammad Shami was skiddy and accurate, while Ishant Sharma bowled far better than he had during his six-wicket first innings haul. Dismissing the home team for just 105 in conditions that were easing out for batting is something the bowlers can take heart from going into the second Test. So stringent were the lines and lengths of Shami and Ishant that they allowed Dhoni to tighten the field and go for wickets. Another highlight was Ravindra Jadeja’s athletic fielding that accounted for five catches and the superlative run-out of McCullum in the second essay.
“Both departments we could have done better”
The fact of the matter is that India lost. They won a good toss and reduced New Zealand to 30 for 3 on the first morning, but let them off the hook through some filthy bowling in the first innings. Zaheer Khan petered out, Ishant was wayward, Shami was surpringly wayward. India's new rock Cheteshwar Pujara played an uncharacteristically ugly shot in the first innings.
Virat Kohli’s wicket, possibly the turning point on the final day, was the result of a totally avoidable pull shot. The Kiwis finished India off with the second new ball, although Dhoni and Jadeja ran them close with a brave, albeit painfully short, counterattack. It was like the last cry of a dying organism. Thankfully, in sport, there are always second chances. India will get theirs in the second Test that begins on Valentine’s day at Wellington.
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