India Vs New Zealand 1st Test Drawn: Tremendous Save By The Kiwis On A Nail-biting Last Day!

The first Test match between India and New Zealand has ended in a thrilling draw in Kanpur today with the last pair of the Kiwis, Rachin Ravindra and Azaz Patel, holding on for more than 8 of the 20 mandatory overs on the fifth and last day. This draw reminds us of the great Sydney Save when India drew level with Australia in January this year and then went on to win the Border-Gavaskar Trophy under the stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane. If in that historic draw Ravichandran Ashwin crafted an unbeaten partnership with Hanuma Bihari for 40 overs lasting nearly 4 hours, here in Kanpur today debutant Rachin Ravindra played the ultimate survival game with the last man Azaz Patel. Rachin saw through an incredible 91 balls for his 18 runs with the three top Indian spinners in full flow. Although New Zealand at one stage were 79/1 Ravindra Jadeja (4/40) ignited the collapse along with Ashwin (3/35) and Axar (1/23) and when captain Williamson fell at the team score of 128/6 with more than 20 overs to go the game was totally in India’s favor. But the Kiwis never gave up fighting back even after the fall of the 9th wicket and the agonized Indians, almost all of them in close catching positions, looked on helplessly as the Umpires finally stopped play for bad light after the completion of the minimum 90 overs. Chasing an improbable target of 284 runs for victory the Kiwis fully concentrated on defence from the beginning, losing the wicket of Young rather unfortunately in yesterday’s dying moments as they did not call for a review given out LBW to Ashwin.


The Test match has been a great display of competitive cricket on all five days with ups and downs for both teams. The highlight of the match is Shreyas Iyer who became the first Indian cricketer to score a century and a half-century on his Test debut and the third to score two half-centuries on debut after Dilwar Hussain in the year 1933-34 and Sunil Gavaskar in 1971. Taking on from Rohit Sharma in the T20I Series the stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane won the toss and elected to bat first. India were able to put up a competitive 345 runs thanks largely to the efforts of Shreyas Iyer (105), Shubman Gill (52), Jadeja (50) and R Ashwin (38). For New Zealand Tim Southee took a fiver, Jamieson 3 scalps, and of the three Kiwi spinners only Azaz Patel managed to take 2 wickets.


New Zealand replied in a great style putting up 150 on the board without loss, and both Tim Latham (95) and Will Young (89) were unlucky not to get to their deserved centuries as Axar Patel ignited the Kiwi downslide taking a fiver, joined by Ashwin who took 3 and Jadeja 1, and the other wicket taken by pacer Umesh Yadav. Finally, New Zealand yielded a slender but advantageous lead of 49 runs to India, being all out for 296. In the second innings India started very badly being reduced to 51/5 as its top order failed miserably, and at that stage the Kiwis were in sight of a victory. However, again thanks to Iyer (65), Ashwin (32). Axar (28 not out) and a resurgent wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha (61 not out) India were out of the woods and were able to declare at 234/7 at close to stumps on the fourth day, setting a target of 284 runs for victory to New Zealand. Again, the Kiwi pacers Southee and Jamieson took 3 wickets each while spinner Azaz taking just one wicket.


The basic difference between the two teams is obviously the fast bowlers for the Kiwis and the class spinners for India while in the sectors of batting and fielding are evenly shared by the two teams except for the Kiwi collapse today with only Lathan scoring his second half-century. Perhaps, both of last Kiwi pair being left-hand batsmen posed a little disadvantage for the three spinners in the desperately thrilling moments in the last hour of the day. As 11 minutes for official end of play were remaining the inconsolable Indians hoped to bowl one or two overs more needing to get just one wicket; but like in all the four days of the match when bad light stopped play minutes before the official close the umpires did not allow it today either. In fact, the setting sun suddenly breaking out of the clouds allowed India to bowl the last three of the mandatory overs, but India failed to capitalize on it.

Although a result would have been most welcome in an absorbing Teat match like this there are hardly any ‘ifs and buts’ as both the teams had their advantages/disadvantages, and the Green Park pitch did not at all behave like a typical Indian turning pitch and has been playable enough till the last day. Of course, India were without a few of their stalwarts like the regular captain Virat Kohli, rested opener Rohit Sharma and Rishabh Pant, injured KL Rahul and the rested pacer duo of Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Shami. Now, the decider second Test is to start at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai from the 3rd of December. Kiwi skipper Kane Williamson would certainly be happy with this hard-earned draw and would go all out to seal the Series in Mumbai. This test series being part of the World Test Championship-21-22 both teams earn four points each from the drawn test. 


The comeback of Virat Kohli who has already been practicing in Mumbai poses a unique problem of selection. Who would Virat replace? Both Rahane and Pujara did not have a great match, but it is difficult to consider dropping anyone of them; because being the stand-in captain who has never lost a Test so far and being the regular vice-captain in Tests Rahane cannot possibly be dropped, and similarly, Pujara who has been anchoring the No.3 position stoutly in Tests is not likely to be dropped for the crunch match. Opener Mayank Agarwal also had a poor match; but dropping him would create a problem for the opening pair. Therefore, in all likelihood the record-making debutant Shreyas Iyer may eventually have to make way for Virat. It would indeed be a great sin to do so, but as pointed out by VVS Laxman in his expert chats on television that such selection dilemmas in the playing eleven in Indian cricket have always been solved essentially in the same fashion, one likes it or not.


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