India v New Zealand, 1st Test Day 4: 5 Talking Points

India v New Zealand, 1st Test Day 4: 5 Talking Points

Ravi Ashwin v New Zealand
(Photo Source: BCCI)

After dominating the proceedings on day 3, India went into day 4 to strengthen their chances of winning the match. They were expected to up the ante from the start and bat till tea break to accommodate enough overs to dismiss New Zealand in the fourth innings. The pitch was starting to deteriorate at the end of day 3 and a target of over 300 was going to be daunting enough for the struggling Kiwi side.

New Zealand bowlers toiled hard to keep the run rate in check, but the difference in the quality of the spinners of the two sides was evident. They did not pose too much threat even on the abrasive surface and the Indian batsmen were rather unflustered as four of them went past the half-century mark. Where Pujara and Vijay batted with caution early on, Rohit and Jadeja brought the big strokes to put India into a commanding position.

It was always going to be the question of when the declaration would be done and how many overs would be given to the bowlers pick up 10 wickets. As soon as Jadeja brought up his half-century, skipper Kohli called curtains on the Indian innings and a huge target of 434 was set for the Kiwis to chase. With 3 sessions in hand to bowl, India has already distressed the Kiwi line-up by picking up 4 wickets for 93 runs and they have an uphill task having 341 runs needed to win with just 6 wickets to play.

Amongst all the chaos on day 4, here are the 5 major talking points:

Vijay-Pujara partnership

The overnight batsmen from day 3, Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara started the day on a watchful note. It was important for them at the beginning to stay at the crease to build a solid platform as the lead was not too much and a collapse could have given a sniff in the match for New Zealand. Both batted with grace and class of Test cricket and shared a stand of 133 runs which was the second-century partnership of the duo in the game. Both scored fifties and repeated the feat from the first innings.

Kohli’s dry run continues

Following the double hundred that Kohli scored in the first Test in the Caribbean, his scores have read 44, 3, 4, 18 and 9 since then in 5 innings. After the lean patch he suffered on the England tour in 2014, this is the first time he has struggled for runs for this long. It is a very rare sight these days not seeing him amongst the scores. Both times in this Test, he was caught on the boundary looking to hit over the top. The good news though is that the other batsmen stood up on the occasion and did the bulk of the scoring, but India needs an in-form Kohli for the remainder of the series as a big season of Test cricket is underway.

Rohit-Jadeja amongst the runs

A huge controversy was erupted when Rohit Sharma was picked in the playing XI and questions were raised about his temperament for Test cricket. In the first innings, he threw his wicket away after getting set at the crease and more fuel was added to the fire. But this time, he was determined to stay out there and crafted a nice half-century. Perhaps this could be the push that he needed to do well in the longest format of the game. He was ably supported by Ravindra Jadeja who was promoted up the order to collect some quick runs. He answered the captain’s call perfectly and scored 50 runs off just 58 balls with 3 mammoth sixes and backed up the five-wicket haul from the first innings.

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Ashwin’s blows in the dawn

As the shadows kept widening on the ground, so did the sun was setting on New Zealand’s chances of saving the Test with Ashwin on full flow. He struck twice in the fourth over to remove Martin Guptill and the half-centurion from the first innings Tom Latham to push the Kiwis on the back foot. Kane Williamson was gritty for a while but he encountered another beauty from the off-spinner which sent him packing. The onus once again will lie on Ashwin along with Jadeja to pick up the remaining wickets on the last day to give India a 1-0 lead in the 3-match series.

Number 1 position up for grabs

India is currently ranked number 2 in the Test rankings and a win here would mean that the neighbors Pakistan would be displaced and India would regain the pole position. Looking at the current form of the team and a long array of Test matches at home following this series, India has a great chance to widen the gap at the top. India will play 12 more Tests at home after this match as they will host England and then Australia and going by the domination of the team at home, team India is the favorites to stay on top for a while.