Indian batsmen’s inadequacies in adverse conditions were laid bare as they crashed to an embarrassing 10-wicket defeat against a ruthless New Zealand side that wrapped up the opening Test in just over three days here on Monday.
Starting the day on 144 for four, India were all out for 191 in 81 overs in their second innings. This was a shade better than their dismal 165 in the first innings, which eventually proved to be decisive.
Trent Boult (4/39 in 22 overs) and Tim Southee (5/61 in 21 overs), one of the finest but most under-rated new ball pairs in world cricket, showed that when it boils down to playing incisive seam and swing bowling, this batting line-up is still a work in progress.
The required target of nine runs was knocked off by New Zealand without much ado for their 100th Test win.
“I think we let ourselves down massively with the bat in the first innings,” India skipper Virat Kohli said after the match.
“You could say the toss played a big role in the Test match but that’s an uncontrollable, so you can’t focus on that and take that as massive factor. But having said that, the first innings performance pushed us back,” he added.
India’s last defeat was against Australia at Perth during the 2018-19 series but the loss at the Basin Reserve would hurt them more because the visitors have not surrendered in such fashion of late.
There was no resistance from a star-studded line-up and more than intent, the failure was due to poor technique on a track that had something on the third and fourth day.
This is a team that plays fast bowling much better than their predecessors, the reason for their success on the bouncy Australian tracks.
But when it comes to facing conventional seam and swing bowling in testing conditions, they are yet to learn the art of saving a Test match.
India had lost the mental battle on the first day itself when they saw the moisture on the wicket.
The toss became a factor and not for one session did they look comfortable. Mayank Agarwal was the only batsman who felt at home, albeit in patches, as New Zealand showed what a Test match strategy is all about. If the first innings was about mixing back of length deliveries with fuller length balls, the second saw the pacers coming from round the wicket and targeting the rib-cage. The line was disconcerting and it stifled them for good.
It affected their mindset and when Ajinkya Rahane and Hanuma Vihari stepped out on the fourth morning, defeat was written all over as both looked ill-equipped to handle such high quality seam bowling.
Rahane (29 off 75 balls) and Vihari (15 off 79 balls) are players who only play long-form cricket at the international level and both are known for their patience.
But little did the Indian vice-captain apprehend that he would get a delivery from Boult, which, instead of moving away after pitching, held its line. With the ball doing exactly the opposite of what Rahane had thought, he had no option but to jab at it, and all he got was an edge.
BRIEF SCORES: New Zealand 348 (Williamson 89, Taylor 44, Jamieson 44, Sharma 5-68, Ashwin 3-99) and 9 for 0 beat India 165 (Rahane 46, Jamieson 4-39, Southee 4-49) and 191 (Agarwal 58, Southee 5-61, Boult 4-39) by 10 wickets.