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Under pressure for much of this tour, India were roused by a sparks of brilliance from two individuals who ambushed New Zealand in their second innings
Abhishek Purohit in Auckland
February 8, 2014
The New Zealand nightmare was becoming longer and longer for India. Someone had to pinch them hard and rouse them up from this slumber where nothing was going right. Four defeats in the ODIs followed by a 301-run deficit in the first Test is enough to sap confidence. They had bowled 121.4 overs to New Zealand at Eden Park and then batted less than half that number. On the third morning, they lost their last six wickets in 16 overs.
Usually, a shell-shocked unit turns up to go through the motions in such a scenario, follow-on or not. New Zealand could have bashed a quick 200 or 250, set India an impossible target, and unleashed their four fast bowlers again. Was there a way out of this for India?
The pair had gone for a combined 2 for 215 in the first innings, but in the second they were so intense that New Zealand were forced to live the nightmare, slumping to 25 for 5 in startlingly quick time. To remain hopeful in dire circumstances requires optimism, but to back that up by playing with so much conviction takes immense self-belief.
From the first ball of the second innings, Shami went at New Zealand with all he had, sprinting in and hurling down one testing delivery after another. His run-up of long strides is usually energetic but throughout his spell of 10-1-30-3, Shami was like a high-power locomotive that had been unhinged from its load of wagons.
Shami seemed like making something happen almost every ball. No other Indian fast bowler - not even a New Zealand one - appeared so menacing through an entire spell, and that too an extended one. His length was fuller, but he did not overpitch, making it hard for batsmen to come forward.
Shami struck in each of his first two overs, and New Zealand were unable to recover from that shock. His delivery to trap Hamish Rutherford lbw for a golden duck was a peach - fast, pitched-up, moving in. Peter Fulton played a poor shot in Shami's second over, but you could argue it was the bowler who had made the batsman play without moving his feet, having pegged him back with a short at the body the previous delivery.
Shami could have had three wickets in three overs, including that of Ross Taylor for a golden duck, had an outside edge travelled to gully. He did add a third scalp, though, by bowling Corey Anderson soon after lunch with a skiddy delivery.
Zaheer Khan was impressed with Shami, saying his ability to strike in clusters placed him above merely good bowlers. "He is a great prospect for India and has had some brilliant performances," Zaheer said. "No doubt he is a match-winner. His quality to take wickets in bunches is what decides him from a good bowler to a really, really good bowler. Shami has got that quality, he has shown that quality in whatever little cricket he has played and with experience he is going to get better."
After the New Zealand openers, India had to deal with Kane Williamson, who had gone past fifty each time on this tour. India, however, found another individual spark to end this threat.
Jadeja had failed to perform his containing role in the first innings, conceding 120 in 26 overs. He had fought with the bat, though, making an unbeaten 30 as the rest capitulated around him. Still, it was his energy in the field that made a vital impact. It is not easy to react so quickly at short midwicket, put in a dive and snap up a well-timed clip, but Jadeja did exactly that to dismiss Williamson.
What followed was inspirational. M Vijay had dropped Brendon McCullum in the last over before lunch, and New Zealand would have gone into the break with their two experienced men, McCullum and Taylor, still around. McCullum is faster than Jadeja, so for the batsman to be caught so far short of the crease while attempting a second run, shows how accurate Jadeja's ball-chase and throw was. Jadeja might have an innocuous presence, but he produces these moments so often that a captain will always have multiple uses for him.
India had let New Zealand escape from 30 for 3 in the first innings, but Shami and Jadeja made sure that no such turnaround occurred this time. The batsmen may or may not achieve the target of 407, but they ensured India had finally woken up in New Zealand.
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