On the fag end of the third day of the third Test between India and New Zealand at the Holkar Stadium in Indore, when faced with the enticing opportunity of making the visitors follow-on and bat again, the Indian captain Virat Kohli made a wiser call, he decided to bat and add to the lead.
The decision to bat was an intriguing one. India held a 276 run lead after dismissing the Kiwis for 299 in their first innings and were on their way to a comfortable victory. Virat Kohli decided to let his batsmen have another go at it, as he knew anything could happen on the 4th and 5th days on a turning track in India.
His batsmen did an admirable job as they added 216 runs from 49 overs at a rate of over 4 runs an over to stretch the lead to 475 and set a nearly unassailable total for the Kiwis. Gautam Gambhir and Cheteshwar Pujara did most of the damage for India as they added a half-century and century respectively.
To truly understand the magnitude of the task the Kiwis faced, it is imperative to recall that the highest successful chase in India in history is 387, an unbelievable performance by India against England in 2008. Apart from that, one has to search the record books to find that the second highest chase. It was a mere 276, achieved by the West Indies in Delhi 29 years ago.
So while it would be unfair to say that the Kiwis were chasing a lost cause, it is, with good reason, one of the toughest things to do in the world of sport.
It doesn’t help when you lose your opener, Tom Latham, who has been very solid so far in the series in just the 10th ball of the chase. Matters certainly become worse when you lose your captain and one of the best batsmen in the world, Kane Williamson, with just 42 runs on the board.
As Kane Williamson left the ground, defeated by Ravichandran Ashwin for the fourth successive time in this series, in walked an out-of-form Ross Taylor.
0, 17, 36, 4, 0. It would be fair to say that Ross Taylor was having a torrid time in India. The right-handed batsman could not cope with the spin coming in to bat in the middle-order and often fell easily, looking to be overly defensive.
He was even described as a ‘walking wicket’ by a friend, quite harsh for someone who boasts of a Test average of 46.74 from 75 Test matches.
But something wasn’t right. You could see it when he walked in. This wasn’t a confident man.
He would take his stance against Ravichandran Ashwin, a man, who by that stage, had already taken 20 wickets in the series. There was only going to be one outcome.
The first two deliveries were dot balls. The first, he flicked towards midwicket and the second, he closed his bat soon and only managed to get a leading edge back towards the bowler.
The next three deliveries – FOUR, FOUR, SIX! The first four came off a fortunate outside edge that beat the slips, the second was the result of a nice shot played to wide of long on as he charged down the track, the six, he charged down again and deposited it deep over the long on fence.
That would be the pattern of his innings as he played his natural game, full of aggression. Suddenly, the crowd got involved. What had been one-way traffic for so long, had suddenly become a terrific contest between bat and ball.
Ashwin gets his revenge
That was the 13th over. Ashwin would get his revenge in the 19th over.
Taylor had raced to 28 off 22 deliveries by the time Ashwin came in to bowl the 19th over. He was greeted by a superb drive through the covers and Taylor moved on to 32. The swagger was back.
On the 3rd ball of the over, Taylor took his stance to face Ashwin
His eyes lit up as he Ashwin float in a loopy delivery. Instead of presenting the full face of the bat like he did only two deliveries ago, he threw the kitchen sink at it, playing an overly aggressive sweep. The ball pitched just short of a yorker length, just outside off stump, as he was through his shot already, the ball spun in and crashed into the stumps.
For an average viewer, the first indication of the wicket was when the bails blew off and Saha was jumping in the air.
Ashwin had won his battle. Doesn’t he win all his battles nowadays?
But just for a half an hour period, Ross Taylor had the viewers captivated, as his knock of 32 off 25 balls, against the run of play was indicative of the high spirits that prevailed through the New Zealand dressing room.
They might have lost the series 3 – 0 but they won plenty of hearts over the past couple of weeks with their competitive brand of cricket.