Much was expected of India after their dominant start to the World Test Championship and recent exploits away from home. But at the Basin Reserve, they dished out the disappointing fare in both innings to capitulate without a fight against a New Zealand team short on confidence after the drubbings in Australia.
The toss played a part with India batting in the most difficult phase of the first Test, but there was no excuse for their second-innings display when the pitch had lost a lot of life and pace. New Zealand must be given credit for creativity, use of angles and the manner in which they employed the short ball. Trent Boult was excellent after a slightly erratic first inning, Tim Southee was as good as ever and Kyle Jamieson impressed on debut, both in the first innings when he got rid of Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli, as well as in the second.
India’s overseas victories have usually stemmed from good opening partnerships, but Prithvi Shaw was caught a little unawares in his first away Test. A few of his technical shortfalls were exposed. He loves hitting the ball to the on-side but when the ball is moving around, he will be better off playing straight and getting the measure of the conditions without compromising on natural flair.
Maybe he can take a leaf out of Kane Williamson’s book. The captain came up with another stunner, an example on how to bat In New Zealand by playing the ball right under the eyes and close to the body. He can also look at his partner Mayank Agarwal, who came into the game with little form but showed his maturity by batting with poise and application.
Ishant Sharma’s whole-hearted, brave performance after a month away from the game and within a couple of days of landing in Wellington was an inspiration. His five-wicket haul was richly deserved but India, who seemed to have fought their way back when they restricted New Zealand to 225 for seven, again allowed the tail to wag and open up a lead of 183. A lead of 100 would have been manageable. Such a big deficit needed a stirring riposte but New Zealand choked the runs, stayed very patient and eventually reaped the rewards.
It’s now India’s turn to pay back in the same coin. Just as they can’t allow New Zealand bowlers to bowl at them without challenge, they will also have to rediscover wicket-taking ways in Christchurch.
I expect them to come up trumps on both counts.