India carried out a decimation of New Zealand, winning the second Test by a record-breaking 372-run margin to clinch the two-Test series 1-0 with comeback-man Jayant Yadav cleaning up the visiting team’s lower half on the fourth morning in Mumbai on Monday. (More Cricket News)
At exactly 10.13 am, 43 minutes to the start of the day, Ravichandran Ashwin (4/34) benefitted from a reflex stumping by Wriddhiman Saha and also completed his 300th wicket on Indian soil to finish the proceedings in a jiffy as New Zealand were all out for 167 in 56.3 overs.
The margin of victory is India’s highest ever on home soil. For a team that had fought tooth and nail in Kanpur, the extra bounce and turn did pose familiar problems for the Kiwis in a match they will try to remember for Ajaz Patel’s 10-wicket heroics.
“I think it was good to finish the series as winners, came close in Kanpur, not able to get that last wicket, had to work hard here. This result seems one-sided, but right through the series, we were made to work hard,” India coach Rahul Dravid said after the demolition act.
“There have been phases where we were behind and had to fight back, credit to the team. Great to see the boys stepping up and taking their opportunities,” he added. Funnily, Ajaz bowled 73.5 overs across two innings for New Zealand and his team, in total, batted 84.4 overs which would signify abject capitulation.
Apart from this, there was nothing much to write home about in an insipid performance from a usually gutsy side. Starting the day at 140/5, the victory target of 540 was simply out of reach for the Black Caps but Jayant, who had not looked in good rhythm on the third evening, suddenly found his mojo with a career-best spell of 14-4-49-4 having last played a Test match in 2017.
“In the morning, the moisture in the wicket helped. You could see the difference between last evening and this morning, it was getting much more bite,” Yadav said explaining his performance. “It was just important to get the ball in the right areas,” he added.
The win in which India ticked almost all the boxes save their middle-order woes will give skipper Virat Kohli lot of confidence going into the away series against South Africa starting in three weeks’ time.
It was Yadav’s first five-wicket haul in a Test and considering that he hasn’t had a great run in first-class cricket, plagued by injuries and poor form, head coach Rahul Dravid’s confidence in his abilities certainly bore fruit.
He didn’t turn the ball a lot but bowling from Tata End, he used the rough to good effect as he pitched it on the cracks and got extra bounce bringing both inside and outside edges into the equation.
Rachin Ravindra edged one to second slip after he was drawn forward by the flight while Kyle Jamieson tried to play an off-break on the back-foot to be plumb in front. It was a delivery for which he should have used his giant stride to smother the spin. Tim Southee went for a slogger’s hoick to be bowled and Kanpur Test’s hero Will Somerville gave a simple bat pad catch at forward short-leg.
While the series will definitely be a confidence booster but at the same time, everyone knows what awaits in South Africa and the most pressing issue will be the lack of form of three key batsmen in skipper Kohli, his vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane and No.3 Cheteshwar Pujara.
On current form, all three can’t be accommodated in the playing eleven and with Shreyas Iyer and Shubman Gill showing good form and Hanuma Vihari, with some useful knocks, waiting in the wings, there are some tough selection calls to be taken.
Another concern is veteran pacer Ishant Sharma, who no longer fits in the four-pronged pace attack with Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Siraj way ahead of him. Kohli would expect that Ravindra Jadeja’s forearm injury isn’t very serious as he would again be the sole spinner at least in Johannesburg and Centurion if not Cape Town where they might use two tweakers.
Ashwin bowled well but he might again have to sit out in overseas conditions.