Ravichandran Ashwin starred for India as they claimed a convincing 197-run victory against a brave New Zealand side in the first Test at Green Park in Kanpur.
The defeat wouldn’t have dented the Black Caps’ spirit too much. Strong batting performances from the likes of Tom Latham and Kane Williamson, as well as a solid showing from the bowling unit will give Mike Hesson reason for optimism. The sides now head to the maelstrom that is Eden Gardens for the second Test. Can New Zealand upset the applecart or will the Indians give their partisan support more reason to cheer? Let’s take a look:
India vs New Zealand | 30 September – 4 October | Eden Gardens | Kolkata | India
To Win Match
India 6/10 | Draw 18/10 | New Zealand 9/1
The Indians were widely expected to canter to victory in the first Test on a turning wicket in Kanpur this past week. As is normally the case on the Sub-Continent, Ravichandran Ashwin stole the show with yet another 10-wicket-haul, finishing with match figures of 10-225 in 66.2 overs. His display further underlined his credentials as the best Sub-Continent bowler on the planet.
While Ashwin shone the brightest, it’s also worth mentioning the contribution that his partner in crime, Ravindra Jadeja, made to India’s victory. He claimed five scalps in the first innings before playing a supporting role for Ashwin in New Zealand’s second innings. While he only managed one wicket in that second innings, his ability to keep things tight at one end proved invaluable as he conceded just 58 runs in 34 overs.
It’ll be interesting to see how well the Indian batsmen cope in the second Test in Kolkata. The entire top order played well as a unit without anyone really setting the world alight. The conditions as well as some stout New Zealand bowling. The only real concern that Anil Kumble will have going forward will be the form of Virat Kohli.
The Indian captain, normally so resolute in Sub-Continent conditions, was decidedly average against a team comprised of players who have little to no experience playing in India. His score of 18 in the second innings was preceded by an underwhelming nine in the first. Kohli doesn’t have the greatest record at Eden Gardens having played two Tests against England and the West Indies respectively. In the three innings he’s played he’s managed a paltry 29 runs at an average of 9.66. He will be all too aware of his shortcomings at the ground and will be keen to put things right in front the Kolkata faithful.
Other than that, the Indians look to be in a good space going into the second Test. KL Rahul and Murali Vijay have looked solid at the top of the innings while Cheteshwar Pujara has continued where he left off in the Duleep Trophy – India’s first class competition – by anchoring both of the Indian team’s innings in the first Test.
On top of their strong batting unit, their spinners possess the guile and skill to get the job done on their own. The fact that Amit Mishra – one of the best Test leg-spinners on the planet – didn’t get a run in the first Test is testament to this. At 6/10, the Indians look a sure-fire thing against the Black Caps.
Yes, the New Zealanders went down by 197 runs. And yes, they collapsed spectacularly on day three of said Test. But it’s not all doom and gloom for the Kane Williamson and his charges. There was more than enough to suggest that they could give the Indians a run for their money.
While Ashwin is lapping up the praise for his 10-wicket-haul, Luke Ronchi and Mitchell Santner stole the show for me. The pair batted superbly in the face of a spin onslaught from Ashwin and Jadeja and would have dreamed of saving the Test for their side.
The two played out of their skin to survive the morning when the ball spun sharply past the edge more often than not before batting became slightly easier. They would both eventually fall to Ashwin and Jadeja respectively, but not before giving the Indians something to think about going forward.
Mike Hesson will also be happy with his bowling unit. Nobody really stole the show but the likes of Ish Sodhi and Mark Craig worked well together while the seam duo of Trent Boult and Neil Wagner got quite a bit of joy out a deck that most seamers would struggle to get to grips with.
All in all, the New Zealanders are a solid unit and pose a threat to this Indian side. I do think, however, that Martin Guptill needs to be dropped from the Test side. The Auckland native simply doesn’t cut it at this level and needs a bit of time away from the longest format in order to iron out a few kinks in his game.
Verdict: India at 6/10
India are simply too good on home soil as was demonstrated in the first Test. While the Black Caps played the spin well in Kanpur, Eden Gardens, however, is a different proposition altogether. On top of the massive turn that Ashwin and co will extract from the wicket, the New Zealanders will need to deal with sweltering conditions and a wall of noise from the Indian fans. With that said, I wouldn’t go too berserk on this game as there is plenty of rain predicted for the duration of the Test. Back India at 6/10 but cover on the draw at 18/10.
Value Bet: Tom Latham to top score for New Zealand in the first inn at 45/10
Tom Latham showed incredible maturity in the first innings of the first Test to reach his half-century. The young opener has matured as a Test player over the last few years and represents excellent value at 45/10.
Written by Jason Dewey for @Hollywoodbets.