KANPUR: Skipper Kane Williamson led from the front yesterday as New Zealand replied strongly with 152 for one against India on a rain-hit second day of the first Test in Kanpur. Williamson, who came to the crease after the early wicket of Martin Guptill, put on a 117-run second wicket partnership with Tom Latham to make major inroads into India’s first innings total of 318.
At stumps, New Zealand had reduced the deficit to 166 runs, with Williamson unbeaten on 65 and Latham also well set on 56 when rain stopped play after tea to wash out the final session of play. The batting duo tackled the Indian spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja with aplomb as they used their feet and the sweep shot to great effect at Kanpur’s Green Park Stadium.
“We are confronted by two very good spinners who know the conditions well and are going to challenge you at different times,” New Zealand’s batting coach Craig McMillan told reporters. “Both guys soaked that (constant appealing) up really nicely throughout that partnership and whenever they got a scoring opportunity they made the most of it. “That is one of the keys, you don’t allow Ashwin or Jadeja to bowl 12 or 15 balls at one person. You have to find a way a way to get down the other end and both those guys did that really nicely today.”
Williamson survived a scare when an Ashwin ball hit the back of his helmet. The back flaps which provide extra support to the skull fell onto his stumps, but didn’t dislodge the bails. Latham also rode his luck after Jadeja got the left-handed batsman caught at short leg, but replays showed the ball hitting the helmet grille of fielder Lokesh Rahul.
The decision was referred to the third umpire who gave Latham not out as according to the rules, external protective gear cannot come into play while taking a catch. The duo got to their respective fifties soon after, although off-spinner Ashwin and left-arm spinner Jadeja continued to trouble the batsmen. “They stuck to their game plans and when the Indian bowlers missed we jumped all over it,” said McMillan. “I thought the way the rotated the strike with that left and right-hand combination throughout the partnership was crucial.”
Umesh Yadav was India’s sole wicket-taker after he trapped Guptill lbw for 21 in the first session of play. Guptill started with positive intent as he struck three boundaries in his 31-ball stay before being undone by Yadav’s pacy, in-swinging delivery.
Despite New Zealand’s strong position, India’s batting coach Sanjay Bangar said the hosts could claw their way back into the game if they can break the partnership early on when play resumes today. “It’s a matter of a wicket. We have to be patient. We will have to wait for that one breakthrough,” said Bangar. “There were a few close calls in second session. It’s a matter of putting pressure back on them.”
Earlier overnight batsman Jadeja played a useful 42-run cameo for the hosts, who started the day on 291 for nine. Jadeja struck seven fours and a six during his unbeaten knock as he entertained the crowd at Kanpur’s Green Park. Medium-pacer Neil Wagner got Yadav caught behind for nine to end up with two wickets in the innings. Mitchell Santner and Trent Boult claimed three apiece. – AFP