Chasing down a target of 434 was never a realistic equation for New Zealand and with only six wickets in hand going in to the final day of India’s 500th Test match, the question was how soon will India wrap the 1st India vs New Zealand Test match at Green Park, Kanpur to take a 1-0 lead in the 3-match series. While New Zealand delayed the inevitable with good resistance in the morning session, India broke down their defence to register a thumping 197-run win 14.3 overs in to the second session.
A dominating victory made sweeter as it came in India’s 500th Test match. Incidentally, India had lost their 100th and 200th Test match but were on the winning side in 300th and 400th Test. Looking back, there could not have been a perfect ground than the Green Park stadium for India and at the forefront of the victory was Ravichandran Ashwin who claimed his fifth ten-wicket haul (10/225) to go with a handy knock of 40 runs in the first innings. He also became the fastest Indian to 200 Test wickets and second-fastest in Test history, achieving the feat in his 37th match.
Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara’s twin fifties in the match proved to be the fulcrum of India’s batting while Ravindra Jadeja too had a stellar match claiming five for 73 in the first innings before scoring 42* and 50* lower-down the order. Mohammad Shami, who failed to get any wickets in the first innings, made a telling impact with the old ball to accelerate India’s march towards victory claiming two quick wickets late in the morning session on Day 5 with reverse swing.
New Zealand went in to lunch on the final day at 205 for seven with no chance of saving the match. After Shami’s two quick strikes before the break, Ashwin completed the formalities taking the remaining three wickets. Mitchell Santner resisted well but was the first wicket to fall in the post lunch session when Ashwin ripped one to the legside. The ball turned and jumped viciously to open up Santner and the batsman ended up outside edging the ball to Rohit Sharma at silly point. He made 71 off 179 deliveries. Four overs later, Ashwin, with the new ball taken, saw Ish Sodhi moving across the crease and sent in a seam up delivery that crashed in to the leg stump. Neil Wagner was the final wicket to fall when he misread a carrom ball from Ashwin and was trapped in front.
Shane Jurgensen, New Zealand’s bowling coach had said that NZ will have to fight till the end to save match and the fight was shown by Luke Ronchi (80) and Santner in the morning session. The duo chanced their arms and scored runs at every possible opportunity to add 65 runs to their overnight partnership of 37 in 20.4 overs.
Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja did get appreciable turn and bounce from the Green Park strip but failed to get any breakthrough early. Similar to the first innings, Ronchi used his feet to great effect. He rocked back early to the deliveries which were marginally short and came forward without much apprehension to the ones tossed up. But a lapse in concentration right after drinks break led to Ronchi’s dismissal after he had scored 80 off 120 balls with the help of nine fours and a six. He went for a slog sweep to a flatter delivery from Jadeja and playing against the turn, managed a leading edge to point.
Santner, who had played 50 balls the previous day for his eight runs seemed to have a better understanding of the pitch and the turn, putting in another solid display with the bat. Kohli operated with his spinners in the early proceedings but with the ball getting old, the Indian skipper eased in Umesh Yadav and Shami in order to extract reverse swing. Shami’s first over of a new spell had Santner in trouble on couple of occasions with the ball darting back in late. And in his second over, right-arm pacer got one to jag back in sharply and had BJ Watling trapped in front for 18.
Santner brought up his fifty in the next over with a single towards extra cover, but lost his new partner Mark Craig to Shami in the next over. Shami bowled it full and the ball came back in to castle Craig. India did not take much time to take the remaining three wickets to claim a memorable victory in their 500th Test match.
Brief Scores : India 377/5 dec. (Pujara 78; Santner 2/79) & 318 (Vijay 65; Boult 4/67) beat New Zealand 236 (Ronchi 80; Ashwin 6/132) & 262 (Williamson 75; Jadeja 5/73) by 197 runs