Spinners' chance to shine, an opportunity for Ajinkya Rahane to make it count on Day 4

Axar Patel has been the standout star in the Indian bowling attack
Axar Patel has been the standout star in the Indian bowling attack

The day that might well decide the fate of this Test match. Contrary to expectations, New Zealand showed serious grit and determination on a slow pitch on Day 2 to resist the Indian spin trio of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel.

In fact, a first innings lead would have set this match up for New Zealand and in such a scenario this could well have been a statement bigger than the World Test Championship final win given the alien conditions and challenges.

However, that wasn’t to be with the Indians doing what they are now used to doing- make a comeback when the chips are down on Day 3. And now with a 63-run lead going into Day 4, all India needs is a 275-run 4th innings lead to put New Zealand under pressure.

In India, things happen much faster as the match progresses. A pitch that looks relatively benign starts to do things and with New Zealand batting fourth there is a lot that the Indians have going for them.

They know that one wicket brings two and it is only a matter of time before they get into the New Zealand batting order in the second innings on a wicket that will deteriorate further. And that’s what makes for fascinating Test cricket. Three quality spinners against a batting line-up that is determined to prove a point.

Each maiden over, for example, is a story. While we don’t have fours or sixes like in a T20 contest, we still have enough excitement and drama. Each ball that misses the edge, the one that falls short, keeps low, makes for fantastic viewing. In sum, this is a riveting Test match that has all the makings of a close one.

For India, it was Axar Patel on day 3. To pick up a 5-wicket haul when both Ashwin and Jadeja are on the park is an excellent effort and Axar was unplayable on occasions, with the ball straightening from middle stump.

With Ashwin and Jadeja also there to push the story, the country will be hoping they will spin a web and win this match to give the team a 1-0 lead going into Mumbai. Before that, however, it is the batting that will be Tested on day 4. Ajinkya Rahane, who was looking good in the first innings, has another opportunity to make a statement as captain.

On the other hand this is a massive opportunity for New Zealand to prove they are a Test side for all conditions and deserve the tag of World Test champions. That they aren’t just good on seaming wickets and helpful conditions will be a real statement. It is a big Test for Williamson and Co and so far they have proved themselves ready for the Test. Day 4 could well decide this match.

Edited by Prasen Moudgal

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