India beat New Zealand by 372 runs in the second Test at Mumbai’s Wankhede stadium on Monday to win the two-match Test series 1-0.
Mayank Agarwal was the star of the show for India as he scored 150 and 62 in the two innings respectively to take India in a strong position before the bowlers led by Ashwin Ravichandran decimated the New Zealand batting.
After a delayed start due to wet outfield, India got off to a great start with Agarwal and Shubman Gill sharing an 80-run opening stand. However, India lost three quick wickets in succession as Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli were all dismissed with India’s score on 80.
Agarwal then shared healthy stands with Shreyas Iyer and Wriddhiman Saha to get to his hundred and take India closer to a respectable score. After his dismissal, Axar Patel and Jayant Yadav took India past the 300 mark before being bowled out for 325.
Kiwi spinner Ajaz Patel created history as he took all ten Indian wickets in the first innings to become just the third bowler in Test cricket history to achieve the feat.
The New Zealand batters then collapsed as Mohammad Siraj dealt them early blow taking the first three wickets of the innings. The spinners led by Ashwin then cleaned up the rest of the batting line-up as the Kiwis were bowled out for just 62.
Ashwin bagged four wickets, while Patel took two in addition to the three from Siraj.
India decided to bat again instead of enforcing the follow-on and Agarwal once again led from the front, this time with a new opening partner in Pujara who between them shared a 107-run opening stand.
Pujara departed soon after and even though Gill and Kohli got off to good starts they couldn’t build on in.
Axar Patel then played a fine hand with 41 runs as India declared at 276/7 leaving New Zealand with 540 runs for victory.
New Zealand never got going during the mammoth chase as they lost wickets at regular intervals. Once again the Indian spinners didn’t allow the Kiwi batters any breathing space as Ashwin and Yadav picked up four wickets apiece to dismiss New Zealand for 167 to give India a 372-run victory, their largest victory by runs in Test cricket.
The defeat looks even more astonishing given Patel grabbed all ten wickets in the first innings. In this Test, he bowled 73.5 overs across two innings for New Zealand and his team, in total, batted 84.4 overs.
Starting the day at 140 for five, the victory target of 540 was simply out of reach for the Black Caps but Jayant, who had not looked in good rhythm on the third evening, suddenly found his mojo with a career-best spell of 14-4-49-4 having last played a Test match in 2017.
“In the morning, the moisture in the wicket helped. You could see the difference between last evening and this morning, it was getting much more bite,” Yadav said explaining his performance.
“It was just important to get the ball in the right areas,” he added.
The win in which India ticked almost all the boxes save their middle-order woes will give skipper Virat Kohli lot of confidence going into the away series against South Africa starting in three weeks’ time.
It was Yadav’s first five-wicket haul in a Test and considering that he hasn’t had a great run in first-class cricket, plagued by injuries and poor form, head coach Rahul Dravid’s confidence in his abilities certainly bore fruit.
“I think it was good to finish the series as winners, came close in Kanpur, not able to get that last wicket, had to work hard here. This result seems one-sided, but right through the series, we were made to work hard,” India coach Rahul Dravid said after the demolition act.
“There have been phases where we were behind and had to fight back, credit to the team. Great to see the boys stepping up and taking their opportunities,” he added.
India will now travel to South Africa for a three-match Test series and hope to record their first-ever series win on South African soil.
While the series will definitely be a confidence booster but at the same time, everyone knows what awaits in South Africa and the most pressing issue will be the lack of form of three key batters in skipper Kohli, his vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane and No.3 Cheteshwar Pujara.
On current form, all three can’t be accommodated in the playing eleven and with Shreyas Iyer and Shubman Gill showing good form and Hanuma Vihari, with some useful knocks, waiting in the wings, there are some tough selection calls to be taken.
Another concern is veteran pacer Ishant Sharma, who no longer fits in the four-pronged pace attack with Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Siraj way ahead of him.
Kohli would expect that Ravindra Jadeja’s forearm injury isn’t very serious as he would again be the sole spinner at least in Johannesburg and Centurion if not Cape Town where they might use two tweakers.
Ashwin bowled well but he might again have to sit out in overseas conditions.
(With PTI inputs)