When the dust settles on New Zealand's second test against India not even Ajaz Patel's phenomenal feats can mask a few reality checks and lingering questions for the Black Caps.
Patel's match haul of 14-225, the best bowling return against India and second-best by a New Zealander in a test, is the life raft the Black Caps clung to as hopes of an historic series triumph rapidly evaporated in the sweltering Mumbai heat.
Patel's achievement, eclipsing the likes of Ian Botham, Bruce Reid, Allan Donald and Nathan Lyon, is all the more remarkable for the fact he is yet to take a wicket across 49 overs in New Zealand.
Criticism of impending defeat must be qualified against the context of a record 10 test unbeaten run, which includes eight victories, dating back to February, 2020.
Losing Kane Williamson to his ongoing elbow issue at the 11th hour was a body blow, too.
The Black Caps have proven a vastly better side than the Mumbai scorecard suggests, and with a home summer looming this seemingly lopsided result may well prove a blip on their radar of sustained success. Yet there were many elements of this test they got wrong.
Selection decisions hurt
While unlikely to have changed the result or drastically altered the context Neil Wagner had to be unleashed. The compelling argument for Wagner's inclusion after the Kanpur draw is now as inescapable as Christmas music at the supermarket. Will Somerville's 0-237 from 69 overs in the two tests significantly diluted the Black Caps attack. In this case, blind trust was misplaced.
Wagner's absence was presumably justified by the notion the left-armer would create footmarks to assist Ravichandran Ashwin and company. After New Zealand were skittled for 62 in their first innings, though, how much worse could it get?
As Wagner watched on it must have been galling to view Kyle Jamieson adopt his favoured method of bowling round the wicket and digging the ball in short in India's second innings with relative success.
Sure, all 17 of India's wickets fell to two New Zealand spinners but India's seamers enjoyed success, with Mohammed Siraj claiming three wickets in the Black Caps' first innings.
Wagner's relentless aggression is always an invaluable asset, one that adds a point of difference and an uncomfortable, unsettling element for opposition batsmen.
With the game gone India started toying with Somerville in their second innings. First test man of the match Shreyas Iyer, having just arrived at the crease, struck Somerville for successive sixes, only to depart four balls later as Patel's first stumping victim to underline their contrast in control and potency.
If, for whatever reason, Wagner was a dead set no go Mitchell Santner could have been a better option than Somerville.
The Ross Taylor worry
Other than some throwdowns with his young son Taylor has not hit a ball since the World Test Championship final in June. That five month absence and lack of preparation clearly deprived him of confidence, and it showed.
Taylor seemed in all sorts of bother as he scored 20 from 62 balls in four attempts – not sure whether to come forward or stay back; play conservatively or hit his way out of trouble. His last innings was truly bizarre. Swinging for the fence from ball one did not end well.
Arriving at the crease with New Zealand 45-2 and two days still to play Taylor decided to have a heave – taking the proactive approach would be putting it kindly - and achieve only in painting the stark difference between attacking and reckless batting. His eight ball six was a worrying reflection of his headspace.
Devon Conway's return from his broken hand will put Taylor's place under serious pressure.
Poor umpiring continues
The standard of umpiring in this series could hardly have been worse. From multiple missed edges on LBW decisions to countless reviews overruling on field verdicts, the standard left a lot to be desired. A full complement of Indian umpires have been quick to send Kiwi batsmen packing - yet there was the odd instance of painstaking footage taking six minutes to give Shreyas Iyer out stumped. It might be time those involved undertake a review of their own performances.
Far from the finished product but the 22-year-old's long-term future as a potential mainstay all-rounder is increasingly obvious. His 3-56 from 13 overs in India's second innings proved he should have been trusted more with the ball.
Ravindra was used too sparingly – four overs in the first innings; five overs before lunch on day three. His control gradually improved and he was not daunted as Virat Kohli, Shubman Gill and Wriddhiman Saha hit out.
After surviving 23 balls Ravindra now has another – albeit difficult - chance to push on with his favoured discipline and add to his match-saving unbeaten 18 from 91 balls in the rear-guard action with Patel in Kanpur.
I must admit to being taken aback with Mitchell's selection to replace Williamson at first drop. At first, it seemed a decision largely made on the basis of his Twenty20 World Cup form in Dubai. Options were limited but I favoured promoting Ravindra or Tom Blundell, though such a task would be a big ask for the latter as keeper.
Mitchell's second innings knock, however, went a long way to justifying his selection. His positive approach from ball one suited his natural game as he struck the ball with conviction to turn the tables and essentially hit India's spinners out of the attack for a brief period.
Frequently using his feet to get to the pitch of the ball and negate the sharp turn, Mitchell looked set only to go hard once too often and fall to Axar Patel for an absorbing 60 from 92 balls.
After slotting into the unaccustomed opening role at the T20 World Cup, Mitchell is fast developing a reputation as the Black Caps' Mr fix it. He now averages 58 from five test innings and must be pushing for a regular role.