India vs New Zealand 2nd Test: Bhuvneshwar Kumar justifies selection on a rain-affected day
When the play began on the morning of Day 2 at the Eden Gardens, Kolkata, the Kiwis would have started on a high given the fact that they had taken control of the game by picking four wickets in the final session of day one, leaving India at 239/7.
The new ball was hardly 7 overs old, and the conditions in the morning would help the Kiwi bowlers. There was movement early on, the bounce was uneven, with the odd ball staying low.
With Jadeja (14) and Kumar (5) dismissed around the hour mark, Saha along with last-man Shami, attacked the Kiwis and added some quick runs on the board before Shami got out with Matt Henry taking a brilliant catch at long leg.
India ended the innings with 316 runs on the board as Saha finished unbeaten on 54. The wicketkeeper is making a name for himself with these vital knocks lower down the order.
New Zealand would have been frustrated with how the session panned out for them, but they stood a chance if they were to bat with patience when they came out to bat. Kane Williamson was going to prove a huge loss with the wicket playing the way it was and the Indian spinners’ form coming into the game.
Pacers make early inroads
The under-pressure opener Martin Guptill (13) started off positively with two boundaries off Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s first over. But in the next over, Shami dismissed Kiwi-opener Tom Latham (1), as he got one to move in off the seam from good-length to catch the batsman plumb in front of middle stump.
Bhuvneshwar piled on the pressure from the other end as he got Guptill bowled. The ball bounced and went on to hit the wicket after ricocheting from Guptill’s elbow. He was unsure whether to play or leave and pulled out a little late and brought on his dismissal. New Zealand 18 for 2; India on top. Bhuvi deservedly got his first wicket of the day.
The pacers kept the pressure on the incoming batsmen with a disciplined spell of fast bowling. They kept a lid on the run-scoring as lunch came with the Kiwis at 21 for 2.
Second over after lunch, Henry Nicholls jabbed at a ball outside off with an angled bat and played on off Kumar’s bowling. This was a great start for the Indians, an even better one for the Uttar Pradesh lad who was making his comeback after not being picked in the first test.
The Indian pace duo hardly gave anything away and kept troubling the Black Caps batsmen. Bhuvi, especially, was bowling a testing line, making sure the batsmen had to play at everything. The Kiwi batsmen were finding it hard to score against him.
There was a brief period of consolidation as Ross Taylor (36) and Luke Ronchi (35) put on a 50-run partnership before Ronchi was dismissed leg-before-wicket by Jadeja.
And that was the last piece of action as the umpires decided to get the covers on as the skies opened up at Kolkata. NZ were 85 for 4 at this stage.
Bhuvi annihilates Kiwi middle order after rain interruption
When play resumed after more than 2 hours of interruption, things started to happen. Balls went over the keeper’s head, some kept as low as the ground.
Ross Taylor after looking good at 30, looked very unsettled after the break. And soon enough, Kumar dismissed him with a lovely delivery that had Taylor playing away from the body, nicking it to Vijay at first slip. There was not much movement, it was the line and the length that did him in, forcing a false shot. Brilliant piece of fast bowling by Bhuvi.
Three overs later Kumar was at it again. Santner (14) was caught plumb as the ball kept low from the back of a length area. In walked Matt Henry, the visitors’ hero with the ball on day one. His stay lasted only one ball though, as he played on from a ball that nipped in and kept low after pitching. The Kiwis were left tottering at 122 for 7. Kumar had his five-for on his comeback.
The umpires stopped play a little after due to bad light as the visitors ended the day on 128 for 7.
You have to feel sorry for the Kiwis though as the bounce had become so unpredictable by the end of day’s play. It was anything but easy out there and the Indian bowlers made the most of the conditions by hardly giving an inch to their opponents.
Kumar stakes a claim for regular spot in the playing XI
But take nothing away from Bhuvneshwar Kumar. There is something so very likeable about this guy that you always want him succeed and do well. He bowls some beautiful seam bowling, can move the ball both ways.
He keeps probing the batsmen with utmost consistency in his control over line and length, goes about his business quietly without any fuss. And most importantly, he gets you wickets in heaps.
The 26-year old was the primary instigator in the third test at St. Lucia picking up a 5-wicket haul as India went on to beat the West Indies comprehensively. And he put in a similar performance today destroying the Kiwi top and middle order single-handedly.
This was his first five-for at home and his fourth overall in 15 test matches.
He made his test debut against Australia in 2013, in Chennai, where he went wicket-less on a spin-friendly track. He has grown leaps and bounds since that test match, though.
Injuries and poor form had kept him out of the test team for some time, but playing only 15 tests, three years since his debut, in a period when India have played close to 30 test matches is nearly not enough.
It does not help his case that India play most of those matches on rank-turners with hardly any assistance for pace bowlers. But he showed what he can do when given a chance today at Kolkata. He clearly deserves more backing from the team.
Kumar has been on the fringes for quite some time now, with the team management constantly rotating the fast-bowling contingent. But he has made most of the opportunities that he has got in the Indian test side. He has improved on his pace and can contribute with the bat as well, making him an invaluable player for this team.
This will go down as an inspired selection by captain Virat Kohli and the Indian team think-tank, but it is high time that Bhuvneshwar Kumar is picked regularly in the playing XI ahead of the inconsistent Umesh Yadav.