Cricket: Black Caps shine on day three of World Test Championship final against India
Day one belonged to the weather and day two was edged by India, but New Zealand’s dominance of day three has put them in with a chance of winning the World Test Championship.
Starting day three with India at 146-3, New Zealand walked off the Southampton pitch seven and a half hours later at 101-2, having rolled India for 217.
To win this ultimate test, the Black Caps have to beat three opponents – India, the weather, and time.
Beating India now looks feasible – the Black Caps have been the better side thus far, and if they can avoid a similar batting collapse to India’s, they should be able to build a crucial first-innings lead.
When they will be able to build that lead is a tougher question. The forecast for day four looks bleak, with another washout possible, which would leave two days – thanks to the sixth reserve day – for a result to be manufactured.
Fortunately, those two days look like they could be uninterrupted – believe it or not, sun is even expected on day six – which is where time comes into the equation, as the Black Caps would probably need to increase their rate of scoring to put themselves into a position where they could attack India’s batsmen once more.
They did that to perfection on day three, led by the sensational Kyle Jamieson, who claimed 5-31.
Of bowlers to take at least 40 wickets in tests, Jamieson has the best average since 1896, taking his 44 scalps at 14.1. His rapidly increasing number of victims included the prized scalp of Virat Kohli – a catalyst to setting up what was a dominant day from the New Zealand bowlers.
On day two, the five-man seam attack had fared decently, but India batted extremely well and had reached stumps in a strong position. Jamieson had been the best on display on day two, but was perhaps slightly guilty of conservatism, favouring a line outside off and only bowling six balls on the stumps in his 14 overs.
His seventh ball on the stumps sparked India’s collapse.
Seaming in, Jamieson rapped Kohli on the pads and sent him on his way without adding to his overnight total – part of a sensational 40-minute spell that saw New Zealand concede just four runs and bowl six straight maidens.
That may have unsettled India, as Rishabh Pant flayed his bat at a wide one from Jamieson to provide a gift to Tom Latham at second slip, and Latham was soon pouching another present as Ajinkya Rahane’s excellent 49 ended in the tamest of dismissals – ballooning a Neil Wagner short ball straight to Latham at short leg, who had been moved there the ball before.
India’s spin-bowling all-rounders – Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin – added some handy runs, but Ashwin slashed a Tim Southee delivery into the sticky hands of Latham, and India’s tail floundered, losing their last three wickets in four balls as Jamieson collected his fifth five-wicket bag in just eight tests.
From 146-3 to 217 all out, India were in trouble, New Zealand were suddenly back in the test, and their openers ensured they were soon on top.
Latham and Devon Conway blunted the Indian attack for 34.2 overs, riding their luck at times against quality bowling. Mohammed Shami was probably the most unlucky, managing to get steep bounce which saw several balls loop over the slips cordon, and there were few loose deliveries to cash in.
That, combined with a slow, damp outfield, made boundaries hard to come by and restricted the run rate, but, laboured as they were, the runs were immensely valuable as the pair added 70.
It ended when Latham tried to drive Ashwin but was deceived by a change of pace and extra spin, lobbing a catch to short extra cover, and while Conway continued to show his class with the first 50 of the test, he departed just before stumps, clipping Ishant Sharma to mid-wicket for 54.
Skipper Kane Williamson looked sound against both pace and spin as he reached stumps unbeaten on 12, joined by Ross Taylor who faced two balls before bad light ended play with the Black Caps on top, but India still in the hunt.
Indeed, after today, the inaugural World Test Championship final could be heading towards a fantastic sixth and final day where all three results are in play – but thanks to their superb efforts on day three, the Black Caps have improved their chances of ultimate glory.
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