Utilising the reverse day that was put in place, the ICC World Test Championship Final is heading for a tight finish after both India and New Zealand battled hard on the scheduled fifth day of the rain-hit showpiece match in Southampton on Tuesday.

Tim Southee removed both India openers late on Tuesday to give New Zealand hope of an unlikely victory. India were 64/2 in their second innings at stumps on Tuesday’s fifth day in Southampton, a lead of 32 runs.

Southee had Shubman Gill lbw for eight, playing across the line before Rohit Sharma, playing no stroke to a ball that cut back, was leg before for 30. And there was still time late in the day for Southee to hit India captain Virat Kohli flush on the helmet, a rarity in international cricket.

Kohli survived a tricky spell to be eight not out, with Cheteshwar Pujara unbeaten on 12 off 55 balls after veteran paceman Southee had taken 2/17 in nine overs.

India pacer Mohammed Shami impressed with a four-wicket haul but New Zealand rallied late to take a crucial 32-run lead as the Black Caps scored 249 runs after resuming at 101 for two.

India, who scored 217 runs in their first innings, then ended the fifth day facing the prospect of a tricky batting effort on the reserve day, not unlike how they did in Manchester against Williamson’s New Zealand in the 2019 World Cup.

With three full sessions to play and a favourable forecast announced for the reserve day on Wednesday, the sixth day will come with the possibility of a draw as well as a result.

India took the upper hand in the morning session by removing three batsmen but Black Caps skipper Kane Williamson (49) and his lower-order colleagues Kyle Jamieson (21) and Tim Southee (30) seized the momentum with their smart batting approach.

Williamson is one of the outstanding batsmen of his generation but such was the control exerted by India’s quicks in a match where pacers on both sides have dominated in helpful conditions, he made just seven from 77 balls faced before lunch on Tuesday.

Shami, who hit the good length consistently, dismissed Ross Taylor (11), BJ Watling (1), Colin de Grandhomme (13) and Kyle Jamieson (21).

Ishant Sharma and Ravichandran Ashwin shared five wickets between them while Ravindra Jadeja took one wicket.

New Zealand had ended the third day at 101/2. Not a single ball was bowled on the fourth day due to inclement weather.

Superb Shami

There were huge cheers from the India fans among a hardy crowd when New Zealand’s 134-4 was transformed into 135/5 as Shami clean bowled BJ Watling, playing his last match before retirement, with a superb delivery that hit the top of middle and off stumps.

Kyle Jamieson, who took five wickets in India’s innings, drove Shami, armed with the new ball, for a magnificent straight six only to fall to the very next delivery when a top-edged hook was well caught at fine leg by Jasprit Bumrah.

Williamson, in sight of joining New Zealand opener Devon Conway (54) in making a fifty this match saw his painstaking 177-ball innings end when he steered Ishant to second-slip Kohli with New Zealand 221-8.

Southee and fellow tailender Trent Boult both hit sixes, however, before the innings finished when Southee played on to left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja for 30.

That a positive result was still possible after both Friday’s opening day and Monday’s fourth had both been washed out without a ball bowled was something of a minor success for the International Cricket Council following two years of qualifying series to determine the finalists. But the fifth day once again started on a frustrating note with a slight drizzle causing an hour’s delay, robbing the game of more overs.

Officials decided to activate the reserve day midway through Tuesday’s play, creating the first six-day Test since the 2005 Super Series between Australia and the Rest of the World and the first in England since the fourth match of the 1975 Ashes at the Oval.

A drawn Test will see the teams share the mace for the championship.

Brief scores:

India: 217 and 64 for 2 in 30 overs (R Sharma 30; T Southee 2/17)

New Zealand 1st innings: 249 all out in 99.2 overs. (Devon Conway 54, Kane Williamson 49, Tom Latham 30; Mohammed Shami 4/76, Ishant Sharma 3/48).

With AFP and PTI inputs