India’s 178-run win over New Zealand in the second Test, in which the fast bowlers contributed 12 wickets, here on Monday was a surprising contradiction to the country’s reputation as a favourite hunting ground for the spinners.
The result, which gave the host a 2-0 lead, ensured India’s series win and its ascendancy to World No. 1 rank after the third Test. It also gave the notion, which doubted India’s capabilities in the pace department, a much-needed break.
15 lbw decisions
With a relaid pitch, the Eden Gardens offered a mystery to be solved. The uneven bounce settled down with time and the mild green cover held its character throughout four days of engrossing action, producing 15 lbw decisions and depicting a different brand of Test cricket in India.
Resuming from 227 for eight in its second innings, India added 36 runs in 13.3 overs to be all out for 263 and set New Zealand a difficult target of 376 runs.
In reply, the Kiwis fought with a big heart before wilting under pressure and intense heat to be all out for 197 runs in its second innings on the fourth day.
Wriddhiman Saha, who started from 39, again anchored India’s lower order resistance to score his second half-century of the match.
Saha and his overnight unbeaten partner Bhuvneshwar Kumar put up 36 runs for the ninth wicket and made the target stiffer for the visitors.
Saha, who remained not out on 58, later kept brilliantly on an uncertain pitch to pick up his maiden Man-of-the-Match award.
Latham leads the chase
Latham led the Black Caps’ courageous run chase. In sweltering conditions, he laboured to frustrate the disciplined Indian attack, which did not give a single run as extra, for close to four hours.
The 24-year-old played late and closer his body with a straight bat against some the well-directed stuff from the Indians.
Latham, who gathered 50 off his 74 runs in the region of midwicket and fine-leg, employed the sweep shot to good effect to minimise the impact of R. Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja as the spin duo operated in tandem for 19 overs.
Latham, who remained unaffected by a huge lbw appeal by Jadeja, joined forces with Martin Guptill for a 55-run opening stand before picking up 49 with Henry Nicholls for the second wicket.
Ashwin hit Guptill’s left pad low and in front to provide the breakthrough in the first over after lunch. Jadeja removed the solid looking Nicholls by having him caught at first slip. Taylor fell to a straight one from Ashwin.
Latham, however, did not give up and tried to form another partnership with Luke Ronchi. When the pair appeared determined to spoil India’s party, Ashwin dismissed Latham with a gem of a delivery. The ball turned slightly and the left-handed Kiwi edged it to Saha in his attempt drive the wide delivery.
Workhorse Mohammed Shami, who had toiled initially on a pitch easing up under a fourth day sun, gave the Indian victory a further push by picking up two wickets in a fascinating spell of six overs of seam bowling.
A precise line, a perfect length and a bit reverse swing enabled Shami to strike Mitchell Santner’s pads successfully and uproot B-J. Watling’s off-stump.
Jadeja’s accuracy also earned him the wickets of Luke Ronchi and Matt Henry. Bhuvneshwar reaped the reward for his consistency by claiming Jeetan Patel.
Shami secured his third wicket of the innings with the second new ball as India captured seven New Zealand wickets in the final session to sail to another memorable win at one of its favourite venues.