Pitch, Toss & changes
After registering a victory in their 500th test, Team India moved to Kolkata where they were playing their 250th test match at home. The toss once again favoured Virat Kohli and he did exactly what any captain would have done. He opted to bat first on a track which had plenty of grass cover but was dry underneath so it was expected to swing earlier and spin later. India dropped Umesh Yadav for Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Shikhar Dhawan replaced KL Rahul who had to sit out due to an injury. New Zealand made three changes. Kane Williamson, their best batsman had to sit out as he was ill and was replaced by Henry Nicolls. Jeetan Patel replaced injured off spinner Mark Craig while Matt Henry came in for Ish Sodhi.
Perfect Pujara, Rahane's resistence and superb Saha (India's 1st inning)
Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan started the inning for India. First three balls showed that batsmen are going to struggle on this pitch as they bounced well above BJ Watling who somehow kept it from going to the boundary. Matt Henry struck in the very second over of the match to remove Dhawan for just one run and his poor form continued and as does the domination of bowlers in next hour. Henry delivered a peach of a delivery to dismiss Vijay. The ball pitched on a fuller good length, swung just enough to take the edge and Vijay was on his way back for 9. Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara were watchful before Kohli lost his patience in 21st over as he chased a ball way outside off stump and was brilliantly caught by Tom Latham. At lunch, India was struggling at 57/3. Pujara and Rahane rebuilt the Inning and made sure that no further damage was caused until tea. Finally their partnership of 141 run was broken by Wagner three over before drinks of second session. Rohit Sharma departed soon for 2. Rahane followed him a few overs later for a brilliant 77 but from there, the lower order had a bit of job to do. Ashwin got out 15 minutes prior to stumps on day 1 after adding 31 with Saha. Wriddhiman Saha (54 not out) played brilliantly with the tail as he added 41 runs with Ravindra Jadeja (14) and 34 with number 11 Mohammad Shami (14). Saha finished unbeaten at 54 as India managed a respectable total of 316.
Kiwis trapped in Bhuvaneshwar's web (New Zealand's 1st inning)
Martin Guptill started New Zealand's first inning with two fours in first over of Bhuvaneshwar Kumar but then Shami removed Latham in second over of the inning via a ball which was bowled around the wicket and it kept going with the angle. Guptill was played on by a Bhuvaneshwar delivery which came in and he was too late to decide whether to leave or defend. At lunch, New Zealand was 2 for 21. Bhuvaneshwar struck again in the second over after lunch to remove Henry Nicholls and his dismissal was a déjà vu of Dhawan's dismissal. Ross Taylor and Luke Ronchi ensured no further damage until drinks break. Ronchi was lucky to survive a close call in 16th over of Jadeja's bowling but after drinks, he fell prey to Jadeja 3rd time in as many innings in the series. Rain started pouring down just after his wicket which resulted in a loss of over two hours of play. The tea was taken in between. Mitchell Santner joined the captain in the middle after the break. Bhuvaneshwar removed Taylor after a brief partnership and then struck twice in a row in 33rd over to remove both Santner and Matt Henry and completed his 4th fiver in test cricket. Jeetan Patel joined BJ Watling in the middle but bad light forced the players out after next over and umpires had to call it a day.
Jeetan Patel (47) started the next day with a boundary of Bhuvaneshwar Kumar on very first ball. He added 60 runs with BJ Watling for 8th wicket before skiing a catch to Mohammad Shami of Ravichandran Ashwin. He played some beautiful cover and on drives and looked most comfortable among all Kiwi batsmen. Shami trapped Watling (25) and Wagner in front of the wickets to finish with the figures of 3 for 70. Kiwis were dismissed for 204 giving India a lead of 112 runs.
Rohit Sharma: The Eden Garden specialist (India's 2nd inning)
Dhawan's poor phase continued as he got a painful blow on second ball of second inning. The ball spat up from the pitch and struck on his thumb which needed physio's attention for a while. It happened again on the first ball of third over on a similar delivery and physio's were at the business again. Despite the damage to his finger, he made sure that India's second inning was unhurt till lunch. Henry dismissed Vijay (7) of another beautiful ball that nipped of the pitch took the edge of Vijay who was half forward and was caught at second slip by Guptill. Next two balls bothered Pujara a bit but it must have bothered Kiwis even more. It was the 5th ball of the over which didn't bounced much but the last one bounced steeply from same spot. Henry got rid of Pujara (4) in his next over while Dhawan's misery was ended soon by a ball from Boult which nipped back of good length. Virat Kohli announced his intentions by smashing two boundaries in Henry's next over. Henry came back to dismiss Rahane (1) in his next over and India were in deep trouble at 43/4. Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli tried to bring India back with a partnership of 48 runs before Kohli became a victim of pitch. He went back to defend a ball which was short but it kept so low that Kohli had no answer to it and he was dead in front. Santner removed Ashwin (5) soon to leave India at 106 for 6 and in a bit of Danger. India needed a big partnership from there and that's what Rohit and Saha did. They added 106 runs for 7th wicket and bailed India out of trouble. Rohit (82) was finally dismissed by Santner but by then India's lead went past 300. India finished the day with 228 for 8 with Saha and Bhuvaneshwar on the crease.
On the fourth day, India added further 36 runs with the help of some decent strokes from Bhuvaneshwar Kumar (23) and Wriddhiman Saha who scored his second fifty for the match. With the score of 263, India set kiwis a target of 376 to level the series with over five sessions to go.
Spinners bamboozled kiwis again (New Zealand's 2nd inning)
Kiwis had to do something which never happened before at Eden Gardens. Tom Latham and Martin Guptill started watchfully and at lunch, they looked determined to achieve unthinkable. They went to lunch with 55 runs without any loss. Although Guptill was lucky to survive a LBW call in 8th to which replays showed he was plumb in front. Ashwin struck right after lunch to remove Guptill but Kiwis were still determined. They added further 38 runs till drinks but a break brings wickets on this kind of tracks. Nicholls was dismissed by Jadeja soon after drinks and Captain Taylor was dismissed by Ashwin. Ronchi and Latham added 26 for 5th wicket but once Ashwin snapped Latham's wicket, it was formality for India. Mohammad Shami got rid of Santner and Watling in consecutive overs while Ronchi was castled by an arm ball from Jadeja. Matt Henry occupied the crease for some time but it only delayed India's victory. Boult swung his bat wildly at a short ball from Shami in 82nd over and Vijay caught it easily which gave India the series as well as first spot in ICC rankings. Ashwin and Jadeja share 6 wickets between them. Wriddhiman Saha was named man of the match for his brilliant glovework and batting on a tough pitch.
In this excellent article, the author has given details of India's victory in the second Test Match against New Zealand played at Eden Gardens, Kolkata. However, I would like to discuss the weak spots of Indian team's performance during the Test. These are as under:-
(a) Both openers failed. I didn't have much hope on Sikhar Dhwan, but this time, Murali Vijay also failed. Unsatisfactory performance of both openers is definitely a matter of concern.
(b) Not only the openers, the performance of Virat Kohli was also below par during both the Tests.
(c) Indian batting depended a lot on lower-order batsmen. This is not a good sign.
(d) All the bowlers, Ashwin, Jadeja, Bhubaneshwar Kumar and Sami performed well and shared the workload of taking 20 wickets. In this context, I would like to know about Umesh Yadav, who is genuinely fast, but his performance has been erratic. So far as reserve spinners are concerned, I would like to say that Amit Yadav, a genuine leg-spinner and Pragyan Ojha, a left-hand orthodox spinner, should be given chance, to check their performance. Both of them are real turners of the ball.
Concluding my comments, I congratulate the author for this excellent review of the second Test Match between India and New Zealand.
Hi Partha sir
Let’s discuss a bit more on your comment
a) Shikhar Dhawan is completely out of touch and after his horrible run at Kolkata; selectors must send him back to Ranji trophy, away from spotlights. He is struggling big time. For Murali Vijay, I can say it was just a rare failure. He got out to the balls which could have got any batsmen out so we don’t need to be too harsh on him.
b) Virat Kohli has not scored a 50 in his last 5 tests now. He is a kind of player who loves to play his shots and grinding out a bad phase is not his thing. The pitches in India these days for test matches are so diabolical that you have to spend some time out there. Virat looked good in Kanpur and threw his wicket in both innings (by pulling a bouncer which he could have left easily in first inning and by slog sweeping when there was no need to do so). Again in first inning of Kolkata test he got out to a ball which could have been a wide in a one day game. So despite being in good tough, he is throwing his wicket away but one thing I like about him is that he never backs down. Big sores are surely on the way.
C) On such tracks, if lower order is scoring, that is a plus point. This is what we call a team effort. Huge totals are not possible on such tracks because some balls are bouncing overhead and other are barely bouncing.
D) Bowling is not a worry at all. Shami is doing his job and he is quite fast as he regularly clocks 140+. He has reversed the balls well too. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar is probably one of the best bowlers currently who has brilliant seam presentation and hence he swings the new ball quite a bit. Umesh Yadav is fast but one thing he lacks is consistency. He bowls a few good balls but follow them up with few half trackers and fuller ones down the leg side. So in Shami and Bhuvaneshwar we already have two fast bowlers and in India, we don’t see more than two fast bowlers because of conditions. Coming to the spinners, Ashwin averages just a touch over 20 at home. Talking about inclusion of Pragyan Ojha, yes he is a top class left arm spinner but Jadeja averages 15 in India with the ball which makes him one of the all time best. Plus Jadeja can bat too. So including Ojha might not be a great idea but yes I agree about Amit Mishra. A third spinner will ease the workload on other bowlers but maybe they are trying just 4 bowlers because they want to strengthen their batting. In such conditions an extra batsman can win you a game. Rohit Sharma who is playing as extra batsman has bailed India out of trouble in Kolkata test and added valuable runs at Kanpur in second innings too.
Although this is not the proper platform, I am going to explain my previous comments.
(a) Sikhar Dhawan has been injured and most probably, Gautam Gambhir is going to play the third Test as opener. In the last Test (at Eden Gardens), both openers and one-down batsmen failed. This caused lots of pressure on the lower middle-order batsmen in Eden's difficult two-paced pitch. A better opposition could have easily exploited the situation.
(b) I did not say that Indian bowling is a matter of worry. I only stressed about preparing the reserve bench. Frankly speaking, I don't have any belief on Ishant Sharma. He is too inconsistent. So, we must nurture Umesh Yadav, who is genuinely fast, along with Shami and Bhubaneshwar Kumar. So far as spin bowling is concerned, we must prepare Pragyan Ojha as the substitute of Jadeja, along with Amit Mishra. Ojha has been taking tons of wickets in domestic tournaments during last three years.