Ashwin, batters take India closer to series win over New Zealand

After the Indian batters set New Zealand an unassailable target of 540 for the fourth innings of the second Test, Ashwin made life difficult for the Kiwi batters, claiming three wickets.  

Ravichandran Ashwin

India bowler Ravichandran Ashwin celebrates the wicket of New Zealand's Henry Nicholls during the second Test match at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai on Saturday.   -  PTI

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. On a Sunday afternoon at the iconic Wankhede Stadium, Ravichandran Ashwin raised his game to help India inch closer to another Test series win. 

After the Indian batters set New Zealand an unassailable target of 540 for the fourth innings of the second Test, Ashwin made life difficult for the Kiwi batters, claiming three wickets. 

Continuing from where he had left – a four-for in the first innings – Ashwin struck early to remove New Zealand’s top three.

IND vs NZ - 2nd TEST, DAY 3: AS IT HAPPENED

Daryl Mitchell (60; 92b) and Henry Nicholls (36 not out; 86b) produced a 73-run stand for the fourth wicket to help New Zealand end the third day at 140-5, but it would still be a daunting task for the touring side to score another 400 runs and save the Test. 

On a track offering plenty of assistance for the spinners, New Zealand needed resilience, but the Black Caps were reeling at 55-3 at one stage. Stand-in captain Latham was trapped leg before, minutes before the players took early tea due to a technical problem with the Spydercam.

As play resumed in the last session, an off-break from Ashwin generated a sharp turn and bounce, picking an inside edge onto Young’s front pad. The ball lobbed to substitute fielder Suryakumar Yadav at short leg, but on-field umpire Anil Choudhary turned down India’s appeal. But skipper Kohli’s review saw third umpire V.K. Sharma overturning the original decision. 

With the departure of two key batters, the onus was on the seasoned Taylor to hold the fort. But he lasted only eight deliveries before slog-sweeping a full, tossed-up delivery to offer a catch to Cheteshwar Pujara, who ran across to his right from the leg slip to ensure India got its third wicket. 

With Ashwin spinning his web, Mitchell and Nicholls took time to settle down and eventually stitched a 73-run stand. 

But India again turned the tide in the last session as Jayant Yadav caught Mitchell off Axar Patel. A few minutes later, Tom Blundell, too, walked back to the pavilion – run out for a duck. 

Earlier, resuming the day on 69-0, openers Mayank Agarwal and Pujara extended the partnership to 107 before Ajaz Patel sent the former packing. While Agarwal, who scored a 150 in the first innings, was caught by Taylor for 62, Pujara (47; 97b), too, missed out on a half-century. 

On the second day of play, India had decided not to enforce a follow-on with a specific plan to allow the senior players more time to bat ahead of the South Africa tour. The Indian team management would be partly happy as Pujara and Agarwal looked in a good rhythm. Shubman Gill (47; 75b) and Kohli (36; 84b) stitched an 82-run stand after the openers departed.

The India captain, returning to the team after a short break, was cleaned up by Rachin Ravindra. Kohli – victim of a controversial dismissal in the first innings – hit Will Somerville for a six, but the old flare was missing for the better part of his 84-ball knock.

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However, the few thousand spectators at the venue were entertained as Axar Patel hit a quick-fire 41 off 26 deliveries. The all-rounder hit four sixes and three boundaries to help India reach 276-7 and declare the innings. 

While India reigned supreme, Mumbai-born Ajaz Patel, who entered the record books on Saturday by claiming 10 wickets in an innings, picked up four more in India’s second innings to take his match tally to 14 – the best by an opposition bowler against India in Test cricket. 

But in the end, even his heroics may not be enough for New Zealand to save the Test and the series.

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