Ravichandran Ashwin (3/35) and Ravindra Jadeja (4/40) almost found a way past New Zealand’s strong resolve, but debutant Rachin Ravindra played out 91 deliveries and remained unbeaten on 18 to guide New Zealand to a draw in the first Test at Kanpur. Last man Ajaz Patel remained unbeaten on 2 off 23 deliveries as the Blackcaps survived by the skin of their teeth. It will be all to play for in the second Test at Mumbai with the series tied 0-0. For India, the match will be remembered for the heroics with the bat by debutant Shreyas Iyer, who scored a century in the first innings and took India out of deep trouble in the second with a gritty knock of 65 runs. Wicket-keeper batter Wriddhiman Saha scored a defiant half-century in the second innings, despite having a stiff neck, and opener Shubman Gill contributed with a half-century in the first innings as the hosts put in a complete team performance but failed to grind out a win in the end.
The touring batters frustrated the Indian spinners on a pitch which did not deteriorate a lot. The Indian tweakers had to dig deep in their bag of tricks but eventually could pick up 8 of the 9 wickets needed on the final day. New Zealand were off to a strong start on the fifth day as overnight batters Tom Latham (52) and William Sommerville (36) showed great application and technique to keep the Indian spinners at bay as they batted the entire first session as the tourists stayed in the game.
But the script changed almost immediately after the lunch break as Sommerville was dismissed by Umesh Yadav. Captain Kane Williamson (24) came out in the middle and joined Latham in the ‘blockathon’ with the latter completing a well deserved half-century. But Ashwin managed to get one past his defense to pick up his 418th Test wicket, which helped him surpass Harbhajan Singh in the list of most successful Test bowlers for India. He is now in the third spot behind Anil Kumble and Kapil Dev.
The Kiwis looked good for a draw as Williamson was joined by the experienced Ross Taylor in the middle. But Taylor was trapped in front for 2 by Jadeja as the Kiwis went into the tea break at 125/4 with India still needing 6 wickets to win in the final session.
But the momentum swung in favour of the hosts after the break as Axar Patel sent back Henry Nicholls and Jadeja produced a beauty to get the better of Kane Williamson. Wicket-keeper batter Tom Blundell did his bit by batting for 38 balls before being cleaned up by Ashwin.
But the Indians would hit a wall when they came up against debutant Rachin Ravindra, who showed immense patience, technique and will power as he kept pushing for a draw.
Just as it looked like the Kiwis might end up saving the match, Jadeja produced another vicious turner that foxed Kyle Jamieson, who was trapped in front for 5 off 30 deliveries and followed it up with the wicket of Tim Southee.
The left-handed duo of Rachit Ravindra and Ajaz Patel had the job of playing out around 9 overs to take their team to a draw and much to everyone’s surprise, the duo pulled off the unthinkable as light kept deteriorating. The last pair batted for 52 deliveries to deny India a win.
Earlier, the bowlers had given India a 49-run first innings lead. Shreyas Iyer pulled out the headline act with the bat in both the innings for India and was adjudged player of the match for his scores of 105 and 65. Stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane failed to deliver with the bat in both innings along with senior pro Cheteshwar Pujara. Rahane’s position in the playing XI will be under further scrutiny after yet another flop show.
For New Zealand, opener Tom Latham scored important half-centuries in both innings while Tim Southee picked up a five-wicket haul in the first innings.
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