Cricket: New Zealand attempt to frustrate India

By David Leggat

Mark Craig bowled handily in yesterday's opening session. Photo / AP
Mark Craig bowled handily in yesterday's opening session. Photo / AP

New Zealand were preparing for a taunting assignment midway through the fourth day of their opening test against India in Kanpur last night.

With India cushioned by a first innings advantage of 56, and starting the day at 159 for one, they were well on top on a pitch increasingly helping spinners.

India had reached 350 for five, with Rohit Sharma, a cracking one-day batsman but still up and down in the five-day game, on 60 and Jadeja, a man with an Indian record three first-class triple centuries to his name, on 31.

They had pressed down on the accelerator after lunch, to follow a fascinating morning session and India's overall advantage was 406.

The highest fourth innings target to win a test in India was by the hosts against England, 387 at Chennai in 2008. The highest fourth innings total in India by a touring team was 276, achieved by the West Indies in 1987-88.

That morning period was given over to a game of cat and mouse; India were seeking to press home their advantage with brisk runs to set up a declaration; New Zealand were trying to make life difficult to prolong the innings.

They knew Indian captain Virat Kohli would have a target in mind. The longer New Zealand could keep India batting to get to that objective, the less time they'd have to bat last night.

Rain clouds were threatening and, as the players discovered on the second afternoon, when it comes in, it can settle in for the long haul.

As it is, New Zealand will need to bat superbly, and probably get a bit of precipitous support to avoid defeat.

But that match position led to an intriguing couple of hours.

That India were restricted to 93 runs in 34 overs, for the loss of three wickets, is squarely down to the quality containing work of left arm spinner Mitchell Santner, in particular, and offspinner Mark Craig.

From the start of the day, when India were 159 for one, and ahead by 215, Santner wheeled down a spell of 11-4-21-1, troubling all the batsmen, but most notably Kohli, whom he had in two minds more than once.

The skipper eventually fell to Craig, slogging high to mid wicket, but Santner was central to Kohli scratching to 18 off 40 balls.

Earlier Santner had Murali Vijay lbw - New Zealand's 12th dismissal of the match but their first by that manner. In contrast, India had taken six lbws in New Zealand's first innings alone.

Cheteshwar Pujara, after a second handsome innings in the match, fell to a nice delivery from legspinner Ish Sodhi, bowling round the wicket, which slid across the defensive stroke to be smartly caught by Ross Taylor at slip.

When Taylor snapped up Ajinkya Rahane shortly after lunch, it was his 121st test catch. Only 19 players have taken more; none have a better catch per match rate than Taylor's 0.876.

Craig, who overall hadn't been able to string the dots together, produced a handy display too, his 11 overs before lunch costing 27, but he did nail his 50th test wicket in his 15th match.

Indeed, Craig had the misfortune to bowl the over in which New Zealand dropped two catches off Rahane on 14. Luke Ronchi spilled him low down at leg slip, and Kane Williamson dropped a sharp chance at short mid on.

- NZ Herald

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