India v New Zealand, 1st Test
Kanpur—India seemed to have made the ideal start to their 500th Test. They had won the toss on a pitch full of cracks that were expected to widen and offer lots of help for the spinners from the third day onwards. Their top order had made a confident start, and halfway through the first day they were 154 for 1.
New Zealand, though, had come to India with the belief that they had the tools they needed to compete hard. Over the second half of the day, their five-man attack showed what it was capable of, and left India 291 for 9 at stumps.
By then, each of the New Zealand bowlers – two left-arm quicks of differing methods, an offspinner, a left-arm orthodox spinner, and a legspinner – had struck at least one vital blow. Mitchell Santner, attacking the stumps with his left-arm spin and varying his pace well, chipped out three wickets. Ish Sodhi took out the set M Vijay in the last over before tea. Mark Craig dismissed Ajinkya Rahane in a testing post-tea spell of flight and drift.
Trent Boult went wicketless with the first new ball, but swung the second one devastatingly to rip through India’s lower order. The biggest wicket, though, went to Neil Wagner, who turned the mood of the match with the wicket of Virat Kohli.
It was the definitive hinge moment. New Zealand had just broken a century stand between M Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara, and the opposition’s captain and best batsman had walked in to deafening noise. He had begun confidently, slapping Santner to the cover point boundary and then stepping across to hook a good short ball from Wagner to the backward square leg boundary, with a bit of help from a Sodhi fumble on the boundary.
Two balls later, he tried the same shot, but this time Wagner had switched from left-arm around to left-arm over. Kohli had to work against the angle, and only managed a top-edge that settled nicely in Sodhi’s hands.
Unlike Kohli, Vijay hadn’t taken on Wagner’s short balls, and through both his spells – one with the new ball and another, spanning seven overs, in the afternoon session – he had swayed out of the way, dropped his wrists, and simply watched balls go through to the keeper. He had been similarly watchful against the other bowlers, permitting himself only one indulgence – the late cut. This shot, played off balls that were barely short or wide, had fetched him boundaries against Wagner, Santner, and Trent Boult, but in the last over before tea, batting on 65, he tried it against Ish Sodhi’s legspin and nicked to the keeper BJ Watling.—AFP