Test Cricket: India Topple From Command To New Zealand Remand!
Team India has done the absolutely unthinkable. True, it is known to be immensely capable of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. However, to the extent as demonstrated on the fourth day of the second and last Test match against New Zealand in Wellington is an extremely rare occasion in the annals of test cricket. Scuttling out New Zealand for less than 200 in the first innings and then taking a sound lead of 246 runs, getting 5 NZ wickets for just 95 runs in the second innings this victory defying strategy is incredible. Okay, the Indians dropped their main tormentor Brendon McCullum twice. But what after that--for nearly full two days! More than the Indian bowlers Captain Dhoni must answer. Even in the unlikely event of India managing to draw this Test irreparable damage has already been done in losing the fourth consecutive overseas Test Series and languishing nearly three years without a win overseas.
Of course, we must applaud the tremendous batting performance and the stupendous fightback by the Kiwis. The highest ever sixth wicket partnership of 352 runs in Test Cricket between Brendon McCullum (281 not out in 525 balls with 28 fours and 4 sixes) and BJ Watling catapulted the hosts to a mammoth 571/6 at stumps on the fourth day today with a lead of 325 runs. The duo carried on session by session with the definite aim of making India bat again and finally to surprise all including themselves put NZ in winning position. The third new ball in the final session today claimed Watling for a brilliant 124—creating the record longest innings (367 balls) by a NZ wicketkeeper falling just 2 short of the highest by a New Zealander at No.7 in the second innings. Going strong as ever Brendon anchored another unbeaten partnership of 125 runs with Jimmy Neesham (a quickfire unbeaten 67 off 96 balls) for the 7th wicket. Brendon McCullum became the first New Zealander to hit back to back double centuries and with just 19 runs short he is likely to be the first ever New Zealander to score a triple century tomorrow. The spectacular batting blitz forced Indian captain Dhoni to go on defensive and make tactical errors in field placing and giving instructions to his bowlers. NZ is likely to take the lead to 350+ tomorrow and then try bowl India out for a 2-0 sweep in the Test Series. Or the hosts may go outright for a win from the morning without resuming batting. However, the chance of achieving that first of a triple century for New Zealand is one factor in contention and also that NZ has almost ensured a 1-0 victory in this Series. The Scorecard:
Right, India too did the unthinkable in Kolkata in March, 2001 when trailing 250 runs and following on they finally beat Australia by 171 runs thanks to a record breaking partnership of 376 runs for the fifth wicket between VVS Laxman (281) and Rahul Dravid (180). That was the second Test in Australia Tour of India after Australia, the best rated team then with an unbeaten run of 16 wins in Tests, beat India by 10 wickets in the first Test in Mumbai. Not undermining the glory of that magnificent victory we can still contend that the Eden Gardens Test was played in a typical Indian pitch and not on the green tops overseas that mostly help fast bowlers. Ishant Sharma who demolished the Kiwis in the first innings and even questioned the decision to drop him from the coming Asia Cup and ICC World T20 proved to be totally ineffectual in the second innings. The last day tomorrow is set to take NZ to new heights and plummet India in the ICC Test rankings too. High time the overseas impotency of Team India be introspected upon and probed, very seriously.