SK Player of the day: Ravichandran Ashwin for delivering at crucial junctures of the match
Ravichandran Ashwin made three vital scalps which opened doors for India's victory.
The fourth day of the Kolkata Test began on a strong note for India, with a score of 226 for 8 on the board, and already a lead of 338 runs. Once the last two wickets fell for India adding 30-odd runs, and giving a target of 376 to the Kiwis, it was the up to the Indian bowlers to dismiss the New Zealanders and win the Test, which would also mean that India would become the number one Test side, dethroning Pakistan from the top.
Chasing 376, the New Zealand openers Tom Latham and Martin Guptill started well against the new ball. They batting resolutely, although riding their luck on occasions against Mohammad Shami, manage to provide little glimmer of hope of a victory for the visitors. The pitch also seemed to slow down, and it looked as it would once again come down to the spin of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja to make the breakthroughs for the home side.
R Ashwin delivers at crucial moments
Kiwis began the post-lunch session at 55 for no wicket, as Ashwin, who so far had bowled just four overs, came in to bowl. In the very first over after lunch, R Ashwin got his first scalp in that of Martin Guptill, who was looking good till then. Ashwin bowled one fuller in length, that pitched outside off, and turned enough to wrap Guptill in front of the off stump. The wicket of Guptill was crucial at that juncture, since Guptill was one batsman for the visitors who possessed the skills to bat for long hours.
Ashwin returned to get another crucial wicket, getting rid of the Kiwi skipper, Ross Taylor. Taylor played down the wrong line on a beautifully drifting off-spinner by Ashwin, and was caught plumb leg before wicket. Taylor’s wicket was also Ashwin’s 400th international wicket, adding another feather in his cap. That wicket by Ashwin was critical since Taylor is one player who can take the game away from the opposition in a single session.
With the Kiwis three down, Luke Ronchi and Latham tried to show resistance, meandering along for over 10 overs. They finished the second session with three wickets down at 135, as Tom Latham, who had played brilliantly for his 74, holding fort from one end, and Luke Ronchi giving him good company.
India, on the other hand, could only get three wickets, much less than what they would have hoped. But the trend at Kolkata has been that of wickets falling in the final session. and Virat Kohli knew that one wicket could lead to another, and it was important that they didn’t release the pressure at any moment.
New Zealand had been going for less than two and half runs an over throughout the innings, taking out one of the three results out of the equation. This also meant that Kohli could constantly apply the pressure on the Kiwis from both ends, making it an ideal scenario for Ashwin and Jadeja to bowl.
In the second over post tea, Ashwin floated one high and wide of Latham, enticing him to drive away from his body. But all Latham could do was get a nick to Wriddhiman Saha, gifting his wicket away after batting so well up till that moment. Latham was the key for the visitors if they had to prevent a loss, and his wicket opened the floodgates for India to wrap up the match. India went on the take the next 7 wickets for 56 runs, winning the match by 178 runs.
As always, Ravichandran Ashwin not only struck at the right moments for India, but also made three prized scalps of the three best New Zealand batsmen.