India settled for a thrilling, yet disappointing draw against New Zealand in the first Test on Monday with dogged Kiwis producing a fascinating rear-guard action in Kanpur. And there's always going to be pitch talk as Day 5 in India always means spin at work.
Soon after the match, India head coach Rahul Dravid gave his verdict on the pitch while also commending the hard work put in by the spin trio of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel.
"We showed great composure and fighting spirit and worked really hard in that final session. It was quite an unresponsive pitch on the fifth day and really good effort to have taken eight wickets after lunch, three in that session and five in the last session," Dravid said. "With a little bit of luck, it would have gone our way I think, guys really fought hard."
After setting a 284-run target, India struggled to break the second-wicket stand between Tom Latham and Will Somerville. But once Umesh Yadav removed Somerville to break the 76-run stand after Lunch, Indian spinners got into the act, taking wickets at regular intervals. But their collective effort, under the fading light, was not enough as the pitch threw up a surprise for the hosts.
"It was low and slow and probably it didn't have that much bounce or didn't have a turn. Probably, you expect a little bit more wear and tear on the fifth day in Indian conditions over the course of five days. This didn't seem to have that kind of bite," the former India captain added.
Yet, as it turned out, the Kiwis held their fort with the last-wicket stand witnessing two Indian-born players, Rachin Ravindra and Ajaz Patel, blocking 52 balls.
"Generally, in India on day five, spinners can challenge both edges -- inside and outside. You know you can beat people on the inside edge and get lbw. But honestly, in this game, the outside edge was virtually ruled out," Dravid explained. "Even till the last day, none of the edges carried, very few catches close to the bat, I can't remember, (KS) Bharat took a couple."
The 48-year-old, who took the reins from Ravi Shastri before the start of the series, shared his experienced, of what it means to be playing a Test match in Kanpur at this time of the year and the challenges.
"It sort of made it feel that there is only one way to get people out, bowled or may be LBW, probably two in the last session. In spite of that, we were able to prise out nine wickets (8) on the last day. It was tough but we expected it to be tough in Kanpur. I have played here and I know wickets can be tough... Usually, on day five, you should get a bit more help and cracks to widen up a little bit, I don't know, may be it's winter and that's why (cracks didn't open)."
For the record, New Zealand's second innings ended at 165/9 after 98 overs with spinners accounting for eight wickets - two batters were bowled while six were trapped in front.
The two teams will now head to Mumbai for the second and final Test match, starting December 3. Wankhede Stadium is known for devilish turn and bounce, or even the lack of it.
The two teams played in the final of the inaugural ICC World Test Championship edition earlier this year with New Zealand winning the six-day match