While the minefield that the Kanpur pitch had converted itself to had been the villain for New Zealand at first sight, there was something spectacular that happened in the third session of the fourth day that may eventually prove out to be one of the turning points of the match. After their best batsman and the captain of the side, Kane Williamson, was dismissed by Ravichandran Ashwin for the second time in the game, all eyes were transfixed on Ross Taylor, the seniormost member of the side to bail the side out of trouble, as they were, at one stage, 43/3 in the 18th over.
However, things took a turn for the worse, when only four overs later, some blatant negligence on Taylor's part and an excellent piece of fielding by India fast bowler Umesh Yadav saw a bizarre dismissal at an unwarranted time, as far as New Zealand's cause was concerned.
It so happened that on the third ball of the 22nd over, Luke Ronchi, who was batting at the other end, pushed an Ashwin delivery towards deep midwicket and called for a couple. It wasn’t to be, however, as Umesh Yadav, stationed at square leg, came running across the ground, collected the ball, and threw it back in absolutely no time.
As much as Taylor’s carefree attitude is there to be blamed for what transpired next, let’s first describe the throw as one of the best to have been executed during the day.
Yadav, who would have been way beyond the 30-yard circle had it existed, rocketed the ball back that was directed at the non-striker’s end and hit the stumps on a bounce. All this while, Taylor was caught napping, as his bat, that was inside the crease when the bails were dislodged, was, albeit, in the air.
What appeared to be an easy double only a few seconds back, was, all of a sudden, converted into a dismissal, and Taylor, who had survived a close call earlier in his innings against Ashwin, had to walk back.
The decision was referred upstairs, even as the New Zealand batsman looked convinced that he had made it. However, the replays showed clearly that Taylor's bat was dangling in the air, despite being beyond the crease.
Time and again, we have heard experts of the game repeat the need for grounding the bat while completing a run. Taylor, on this occasion, was the culprit of his dismissal, even though the throw from the deep was a brilliant one.
A veteran of 73 Test matches should know that the bat has to be grounded while taking the second run, so as to be on the safer side, if direct hits or close calls, such as this one, occur.
Not only was this a respite for India, but it was also a respite for Yadav, who had dropped a simple-looking catch to give Williamson a second-life earlier in the innings off Ashwin.
That dismissal came at a crucial juncture in the game, and thereafter, NZ were rendered defenceless, without two of their most experienced batsmen. At stumps, Ronchi was batting with Mitchell Santner, and New Zealand were still in a spot of bother at 93/4, still needing 341 runs to win from a possible 98 overs on Day 5.
You can watch Yadav’s brilliant fielding effort to dismiss Taylor here.