India pummels New Zealand, retakes top slot in ICC rankings
India on Monday pulled off a brilliant all-round performance to trounce New Zealand by 178 runs in the second Test in Kolkata to clinch the series with an unassailable 2-0 lead, which also propelled it to the top of the ICC rankings, dethroning arch-rival Pakistan.
Virat Kohli’s men wrapped up the series-deciding victory on the fourth day of the match after setting the Black Caps a mammoth target of 376 runs to chase.
The visitors showed some spark to start with, but their chase floundered in the post-tea session and the side was bowled out for 197 in 81.1 overs in what was India’s 250th home Test.
The home team earlier finished its second innings at 263 in 76.5 overs.
Following Rohit Sharma’s 82-run knock on Sunday, Wriddhiman Saha also picked up his second successive half-century of the match by scoring a 120-ball 58, laced with half a dozen fours.
Faced with an improbable chase, New Zealand were off to a confident start before things went downhill in the final session of the day.
Opener Tom Latham top-scored for them with a 148-ball 74, which included eight hits to the fence.
His innings gave New Zealand some hope of springing a surprise but off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin put paid to any such eventuality in just the second over after tea, inducing an edge off his bat, which was comfortably taken by wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha.
Besides Latham, Luke Ronchi was the only one to play an innings of significance, accounting for 32 runs (60 balls, 4×4).
However, rest of the Black Caps’ line-up failed to apply itself on the tricky track, exploited well by both the pacers and spinners.
Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja were the top Indian wicket-takers, with hauls of 3/82 and 3/41 respectively. Among the pacers, Mohammed Shami grabbed 3/46 in a fine concerted bowling performance.
The two teams will now move to Indore for the third Test, starting October 8, which will be followed by a five-match ODI series.
Having extracted reverse swing with the old ball, Shami cleaned the tail after new ball was taken in the 80th over.
Trent Boult was the last wicket to fall today when he tried to pull a bouncer but instead top-edged to Murali Vijay, who completed a clean catch.
New Zealand desperately missed skipper and batting talisman Kane Williamson, who was ruled out of the match owing to illness.
Latham, however, stood out with a stellar knock but the left-hander lacked support at the other end, and the writing was on the wall after he was dismissed in the second over after tea.
Having starred in Kanpur with a 10-wicket match haul, Ashwin, bowling with a corn in his middle finger, was once again the key on an eased-out track that looked slow, aiding little turn.
Ashwin struck in the fifth ball after lunch to give India the first breakthrough by dismissing senior opener Martin Guptill (24), snapping the 55-run opening partnership.
Jadeja joined in before Ashwin took his second, but Latham stayed on completing his second successive half-century and ninth overall.
Latham looked in firm control of the proceedings till he took a leading edge on 66, but survived owing to confusion between Kohli and Ashwin.
Kohli dived for the catch from short cover but it was a half-hearted attempt after realising that Ashwin too was going for it. But neither of them could hold onto it and Latham did not mind it.
Latham, however, could not extend his vigil, as Ashwin once again gave a crucial breakthrough in the second over after tea by ending the left-hander’s elegant innings.
Bowling around the wicket to left-handers, Shami got reverse swing from the wicket and took two in successive overs, dismissing Mitchell Santner (9) and BJ Watling (1) to dent New Zealand’s chase.
Having trapped Saunter LBW, Shami got a second one after Watling got out to a ripper, a lovely delivery that came back in to uproot the off-stump.
Earlier, resuming on 227 for eight, India was bundled out for 263 in 76.5 overs, setting New Zealand an improbable target.
The highlight of the day’s play was man of the man Saha, who remained unbeaten on 58.
For the Kiwis, Trent Boult (3/38), Matt Henry (3/59) and Mitchell Santner (3/60) returned three each.
Saha had also remained not out in the first innings with a stellar 54 and he followed it up with yet another impressive knock, his fourth 50 in Test cricket.
Resuming the day on 39, Saha was watchful to start with getting himself adjusted to the condition that seemed better but the ball kept slow and sometimes low.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar, at the other end, looked to go for his strokes and hit the first boundary in the seventh over of the day driving Henry in the slip cordon.
Stand-in skipper Ross Taylor brought in Neil Wagner in the 10th over of the day and the left-arm pacer gave the breakthrough in Bhuvneshwar (23; 2×4, 1×6) for his 99th scalp in his 25th Test.
At the other end, Saha remained calm and finally got to his 50 in 113 balls after a watchful stay.
He swept Santner for two delightful boundaries to get past the mark but he was left stranded when India’s last man Shami becoming Boult’s third victim.
Shami was dismissed with a low catch by Latham at third gully that was referred to third umpire.
India 1st innings: 316
New Zealand 1st innings: 204
India 2nd innings: 263
New Zealand 2nd innings: T Latham c Saha b Ashwin 74 M Guptill lbw b Ashwin 24 H Nicholls c Rahane b Jadeja 24 R Taylor lbw b Ashwin 4 L Ronchi b Jadeja 32 M Santner lbw b Shami 9 BJ Watling b Shami 1 M Henry c Kohli b Jadeja 18 J Patel b Kumar 2 N Wagner not out 5 T Boult c Vijay b Shami 4 Extras: 0 Total: (all out; 81.1 overs) 197
Fall of wickets 1—55, 2—104, 3—115, 4—141, 5—154, 6—156, 7—175, 8—178, 9—190.
Bowling: B Kumar 12—4—28—1, Mohammed Shami 18.1—5—46—3, R Ashwin 31—6—82—3, R Jadeja 20—3—41—3.