New Zealand spinners Rachin Ravindra and Ajaz Patel did their role with the bat to survive a nervy finish against the Indian spinners as the first Test ended in a draw in Kanpur on Monday.
R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel gave it their all on the final day but in the end New Zealand managed to earn a draw to finish on 165/9 (98 overs) while chasing 284 on day five of the opening Test. Jadeja was the pick of the Indian bowlers with figures of 28-10-40-4. Ashwin picked up three wickets.
The last wicket partnership was worth 10 runs but more relevantly lasted 8.4 overs as Kane Williamson and Co pulled off a superb rearguard with the drama of fading light thrown into the mix.
The series, which is part of the World Test Championship cycle, is now level heading into the second Test in Mumbai. Both teams earned four points each. This was defending world champions New Zealand’s first assignment of the new cycle while India’s now suspended series in England was their first assignment.
Debutant Ravindra (18) put on key partnerships including an eighth-wicket stand of 46 deliveries with Kyle Jamieson, and then held fort for 52 balls with Ajaz Patel before umpires ended play due to bad light.
Jadeja and Ashwin shared seven wickets between them to hurt New Zealand in their chase but the 22-year-old Ravindra, who went wicketless with his left-arm spin, made the match his own.
The Kiwis slipped to 138-7 in the 79th over when Ravindra brought back the fight, with Jamieson for company.
At tea, India started to sense a potential window into closing the match out as they hit back with crucial wickets including the well-set Tom Latham and experienced Ross Taylor.
New Zealand reached 125 for four during the final session break. Taylor fell lbw off Ravindra Jadeja for two as the teams went into the break in Kanpur, needing another 159 to win.
The left-handed Latham, who made 95 in New Zealand’s first innings total of 296, moved from his overnight two to 52 before falling to Ashwin’s off spin.
Skipper Kane Williamson was batting on 24 in an attempt for a best-ever chase by a touring side in India or to go for a draw by batting out the final session.
Latham and night-watch William Somerville put on an unbeaten partnership of 76 to deny India a wicket in the first session but fast bowler Umesh Yadav struck immediately after lunch to break the stand.
Somerville, who joined Latham after Will Young fell to Ashwin in the final session on Sunday, scored 36 off 110 balls to frustrate the Indian bowlers.
Ashwin got Latham’s prized wicket with the batsman chopping a wider and quicker delivery on to his stumps.
The wicket took Ashwin past veteran Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh’s tally of 417 wickets. Former spinner Anil Kumble leads the Indian wicket-takers list with 619 followed by Kapil Dev (434).
Williamson kept up the grind but Jadeja struck with his left-arm spin in the final over of the second session to leave the tourists in trouble. But they managed to hold on in the end thanks to crucial contributions from the three spinners in the side, with the bat.
Debutant Shreyas Iyer stood out for India with his 105 and 65 in India’s 345 and 237-4 declared and was adjudged the player of the match.
(With AFP inputs)
(More to follow)