Sports, Cricket

Southee and the openers chart New Zealand’s comeback

Published : 26 Nov 2021 08:24 PM

The openers and Tim Southee helped New Zealand wrest back the advantage on Day 2 of their first Test versus India. The visitors ended the day on a strong note at 129 for no loss, in arrears by 216.

When the day began, with the score reading 258 for 4, India seemed to have the upper hand. However, their plans of dominating the Test were upended by Southee's guile and discipline. The experienced paceman tactically outplayed one batter after another to bag his second five-wicket haul in Tests in India.

Ravindra Jadeja, who had shared a crucial hundred-plus stand with Shreyas Iyer on Day 1, was the first of his victims for the day. From round the wicket, Southee employed the inward angle to sow the seeds of doubt in the batter's mind. He also provided the finishing touches to his plan by knocking over the all-rounder with the three-quarter seam ball. Wriddhiman Saha didn't last long as he too fell to Southee. The 32-year-old then bagged the prized wicket of Shreyas Iyer by tempting him to drive it to covers. Southee wasn't done yet as he also prised out Axar Patel with another of his three-quarter seam deliveries.

The key to Southee's success was he used his tried and tested weapon - three-quarter ball - to exploit the little bit of uneven bounce on offer. In between, he also generated enough outswing to keep his opponents guessing. Ajaz Patel followed up Southee's efforts by picking up the last two wickets to fall to wrap up the innings for 345. On the other hand, Iyer's ton on Test debut was a bright spot for the home team. The middle-order batter started the day with positive intent and soon reached the coveted three-figure mark with a double off Kyle Jamieson.

Despite bowling India out for a score of less than 350, New Zealand still had to wade through a couple of sessions on a track where the odd ball was staying low. The duo of Latham and Young did just that and steered the side to the stumps. On a slow pitch, the pair stuck to their plan of playing an attritional brand of cricket and waited for the loose delivery. Young was the more aggressive of the two as he skipped down the track and also employed the sweep to frustrate the spinners. Both Latham and Young were also sure-footed in their defence by either moving right back or taking a good stride forward as the pair reached respective fifties.

During the course of their unbeaten alliance, the pair also had a few narrow escapes. Latham in particular survived a couple of LBW decisions which he got overturned via the DRS. On both occasions, it was clear that he had eked out an inside edge. Just before the umpires decided the light wasn't good enough for further play, Latham was also adjudged to have edged one behind. However, he once again got it reversed through the review system.

By the fag end of the day, India's lead spinner - Ravi Ashwin - also seemed to be in his groove as he got a few to rip off the surface. The Indian camp would hope for the spin trio of Ashwin, Jadeja and Axar Patel to extract more bite out of the surface on Day 3. For now though the New Zealand camp would be the happier side of the two.