India vs New Zealand: Top-order collapse leaves Kohli & Co. in doldrums

Another top-order collapse saw India reeling at 144/4 at stumps on day three of the first Test. Virat Kohli's side still trails New Zealand by 39 runs.

Mayank Agarwal raises his bat after reaching his fifty. However, moments later the opener was strangled down the leg.   -  AFP

Trent Boult’s enterprising 38 extended New Zealand’s lead to 183, giving the host a psychological edge as they entered the Basin Reserve ground again on the third day of the first Test here on Sunday. 

Then the left-arm swing bowler, rediscovering his rhythm, bowled a compelling spell, varying his pace, harnessing the angles and the wind, and controlling his movement on a pitch that had eased out.

Boult prised out Prithvi Shaw with a lifting delivery from round the wicket - a backward square-leg was precisely placed to pluck the fended ball - and then brought the sphere back into Cheteshwar Pujara, who shouldered arms and heard the sound of death.

India vs New Zealand | First Test | Scorecard

Boult was not finished yet. Big fish Virat Kohli was just getting into his stride when he attempted to pull a quicker short ball from Boult and only succeeding in nicking to wicket-keeper B.J. Watling. 

India was 144 for four with a fighting Ajinkya Rahane (25 batting), who essayed a couple of scorching cuts but was struck on the helmet by a Tim Southee lifter, battling with a determined Hanuma Vihari (15 batting).

New Zealand tail piles agony on India

In the morning, India let the initiative slip, unable to blow away the tail; from 225 for seven, New Zealand recovered to 348 all out, a sizable lead of 183. This was the critical phase of the match when Colin de Grandhome, Kyle Jamieson and Boult took the game away from India.

All these extra runs meant India was under pressure when it batted again. Only Mayank Agarwal (58) was able to put together an innings of substance. 

Agarwal is an organised batsman with temperament and strokes. Even as he keeps the scoreboard moving without getting into a defensive rut, the opener offers stability.

He has a trigger movement forward but does not commit himself. Agarwal can shift his weight to back-foot with ease.

A cover-drive off Southee was all about timing; so was the off-drive off Boult. Agarwal then whipped out a back-foot punch off Southee.

Agarwal (58) was a tad unlucky in his dismissal, getting a faint tickle to a delivery down leg-side from Southee.

In the morning, Grandhomme (43) held the Kiwi innings together.

There is a grace to de Grandhomme’s batting that is hard to miss. The all-rounder has a relaxed stance where the bat is held aloft and his movement, either front or back, is decisive.

Trent Boult's all-round skills with bat and ball dented India.   -  AP

 

Between periods of defence, he blasted Ishant to the long-off fence, whipped Bumrah and flicked Ashwin fine. Importantly, he built partnerships.

He cleverly played second fiddle to Jamieson as the debutant launched into the Indian bowling during the whirlwind 71-run eighth-wicket stand.

Jamieson, all of 6’8, is a natural striker who uses his reach. He twice pulled Shami for the maximum, one of them was a top-edge. Jamieson (44) then clubbed Ashwin for two sixes, both between long-on and mid-wicket.

The off-spinner continued to flight and the dip in his bowling produced the fatal mis-hit from Jamieson. There was further sting in New Zealand’s tail with Boult assuming centre-stage with his brand of strokeplay.

Ishant, who fired out Boult with a short-pitched one for his fifth wicket, was easily the pick with his consistency, off-stump line and bounce.

Ashwin bowled well too. He spun one from middle to leg to have Grandhomme caught behind. Whenever he flighted, there was some turn and bounce for Ashwin. If India sets a reasonable target, Ashwin could be a factor in the fourth innings.

Jasprit Bumrah snared B.J. Watling with a short-pitched ball outside off the first thing in the morning but this was an innings where he largely struggled.

Brief Score:

India: 165 all out & 144 for 4 (Mayank Agarwal 58, Ajinkya Rahane 15 not out, Hanuma Vihari 15 not out; Trent Boult 3/27).

New Zealand: 348 all out in 100.2 overs (Kane Williamson 89, Ross Taylor 44, Kyle Jamieson 44; Ishant Sharma 5/68, Ravichandran Ashwin 3/99).

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