At the end of the first day, India were 258/4 with both Shreyas Iyer and Ravindra Jadeja set and unbeaten having already put on more than 100 run partnership. They were looking good to take the team to a substantial total to bat New Zealand out of the game. But New Zealand had other plans.
They first fought back through masterful swing bowling by Tim Southee who picked up five wickets and bowled India out for 345 after Iyer got to his debut Test hundred. Southee on the first day had just one wicket - that of Cheteshwar Pujara - but on the second day had both Jadeja and Iyer and also key wickets of Wridhiman Saha and Axar Patel, and they are no mugs with the bat.
India’s experienced spinners came in to play in Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja who between them have picked up 413 and 227 wickets respectively. India also had Aksar Patel who was sensational in his debut series this year in February-March picking 27 wickets in just three matches at an average of 10.59. You would expect New Zealand be at least five down at the end of the second day but their openers Tom Latham and Will Young applied themselves and are unseparated and the score reads 129/0 at the end of second day. Yes you read it right, the Kiwis are 129 without loss at the end of the days play.
What the Black Caps showed is that you can always come back in a Test match through skilful bowling and with solid application in batting and that’s what Southee did with the ball backed up by their openers Latham and Young. In fact both the openers have made all the Indian spinners toil on a wicket which is slow and the batsman have time to go back or use their feet and nullify the spin. Yes the odd ball is spinning and keeping low but both the openers have survived and look good for a big score especially Young who is unbeaten on 75 and looks set for his first hundred and so does Latham who already has 11 Test hundreds to his name.
New Zealand have Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor two of their most experienced batsman to follow and if they can show the same resilience and the application as the openers, India will have to do all the catching up going in to bat the second time around. The last time Kiwis played at Kanpur was in 2016 and were in similar position at the end of second days play but had faltered with both Jadeja and Ashwin bringing India back in the game and winning that Test match. India have still 216 runs to play and if their spinners strike early in the third day, they can still repeat what they did in 2016 as batting last on this low wicket would be difficult and the Kiwis would be wary of that fact and would like to take the first innings lead to avoid a similar fate.
The odds are still in India’s favour with the state of the pitch coming in to play come day three and four but this New Zealand team has shown time and again specially against India to fight till the end and beat India regularly. Will they do it again, only time will tell but for once I would not dare rule the New Zealanders out as Test matches are not won and lost in a single session, it’s won in five days of skill, patience and application.