India reclaims top Test spot after NZ-series win
KOLKATA: India’s bowlers propelled the hosts to a comprehensive 178-run win over New Zealand in the second Test Monday, to clinch the series and reclaim the top spot in the world rankings.
Chasing 376 runs for victory, New Zealand were bowled out for 197 in the final session on the fourth day in Kolkata, with India’s Mohammed Shami, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja taking three wickets each.
Shami claimed the final wicket of Trent Boult, sparking celebrations in the Indian team who take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series, after winning the first Test in Kanpur.
The victory also sees India jump back to the top of the International Cricket Council (ICC) Test rankings after starting the series just one point behind archrivals Pakistan.
Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who took five scalps in the first innings, shared 12 wickets between them on a two-paced track at Eden Gardens that offered the seam bowlers of both sides great help.
India skipper Virat Kohli paid tribute to his bowlers, but also praised wicketkeeper and batsman Wriddhiman Saha, named man of the match for his unbeaten half-centuries in both innings against New Zealand’s aggressive seamers.
“Saha was brilliant, he’s the best keeper in the country, he’s doing a great job in Test cricket,” Kohli said.
“That hundred in the West Indies really improved his confidence, he understands how to bat with the tail now,” he said of Saha’s recent performance in the Caribbean.
Spinners also played a key role in India’s victory, with Ashwin breaking New Zealand’s opening stand just after lunch, trapping Martin Guptill lbw for 24.
Tom Latham scored a gritty 74 before also falling to Ashwin soon after the tea break.
Ashwin got Latham on a well-crafted off-spinner that pitched and spun away from the left-hander, who was caught behind.
Latham’s 49-run second-wicket partnership with Henry Nicholls had raised the visitors’ hopes of batting the day out, but Ashwin’s partner Jadeja soon joined forces.
Jadeja claimed Nicholls’s wicket after his angled delivery got the edge of the New Zealander’s bat for an easy catch at slips.
Shami got some reverse swing towards the end of the day to rattle New Zealand’s middle-order with the wickets of Mitchell Santner and BJ Watling.
Earlier India, who resumed the day on 227 for eight in their second innings, were bowled out for 263, with Saha scoring an unbeaten 58.
The contributions of Saha, who scored an unbeaten 54 in the first innings, proved vital to India putting up decent totals.
New Zealand pacers Boult, Matt Henry and Neil Wagner, who shared 14 wickets between them in the two innings, also enjoyed the seaming conditions.
“Very impressive, the way the bowlers got stuck in hot, humid conditions. We put India under pressure, but credit to them for withstanding it,” said stand-in-skipper Ross Taylor.
India’s pace duo of Shami and Kumar helped bowl out New Zealand for 204 in response to India’s 316 in the first innings.
India secured a 112-run lead in the first innings that proved vital in outplaying the visitors, who lost regular skipper Kane Williamson to a viral infection just before the start of the match.
Rohit Sharma’s dominant 82 on Sunday gave India the upper hand in its 250th Test at home.
“I guess anytime you have a 112-run deficit, you’re always under pressure. We got some early wickets, but the partnership between Saha and Rohit took it away from us,” said Taylor.
Half-centuries from Cheteshwar Pujara (87) and Ajinkya Rahane (77) in the first innings also ensured India made a solid start.
The final Test will be played in Indore starting on October 8.