Cricket: Neil Wagner dropped in favour of more batting

By Andrew Alderson in Indore

The relatively disappointing form of New Zealand's top order batsmen in the Indian series saw pace bowler Neil Wagner dropped from the playing XI for the third test.

Huh?

The main logic of the decision is to allow the visitors to extend their batting order by bringing in Jimmy Neesham, because the specialists have not produced enough runs to put pressure on India.

In light of Wagner getting sacrificed, the onus is on the top seven - now eight with Neesham - to pay tribute with a weight of first innings runs.

India resume at 267 for three with Virat Kohli (102) and Ajinkya Rahane (79) unbeaten, so there remains bowling and fielding work to do.

Ominously, the wicket already appears to be roughing up after Kohli won a seventh consecutive toss at home.

In those seven toss wins - which includes this match - India has won five of the tests; the other was washed out.

"A few balls turned, but there wasn't too much spin," Cheteshwar Pujara said, after making 41 on the opening day. "But as the match progresses, hopefully it will increase. The left-arm seamer [Boult] will create a rough to help our spinners [bowling to right-handers].

As a fellow left-armer, that could be another reason Wagner was overlooked, but few players have put more heart into the New Zealand cause of late. As a first change bowler he often toils in unenviable conditions without a new ball.

"It's unfortunate for Wags," Neesham said. "He's been one of our best bowlers recently...

but a [specialist] seamer had to make way. Henners [Matt Henry] and Boulty [Trent Boult] bowled exceptionally in the last test, so it was hard to leave them out.

"He's been helping with drinks so I'm sure he'll take it hard, but be back firing in the home summer.

"I don't know if we could have done it a lot different with the ball today. For the seamers it was tough work. There's not a lot of bounce or lateral movement. If you can't get the ball reverse swinging, it's difficult against their quality batsmen."

One area that offered certainty to Neesham was the toss, given Kohli's phenomenal fortune.

"It makes it easier turning up at the ground knowing you'll be bowling," Neesham quipped.

He also provided a key point in the narrative with his direct hit from point as Kohli dived for his 100th run at the non-striker's end. The Indian captain got home by about half a bat.

"It was tight. I was pretty confident he'd drop and run to get his century quickly, so I took a couple of steps in. Virat made his ground quite comfortably but it was fair enough the umpires checked upstairs. The bat could've bounced."

The New Zealanders bowled steadily for little reward inside a three-metre high wrought iron perimeter fence enveloped by a boisterous crowd.

Each of their wickets were outstanding pieces of cricket but the series' best partnership, 167 between Kohli and Rahane, trumped them.

As the light dimmed in the haze, thousands of phone lights waved to the chant "Ind-ya, Ind-ya". It was compelling theatre without a drop of alcohol drunk.

Indians get intoxicated on shots of cricket alone.

- NZ Herald

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