Axar Patel’s incredible run in Test cricket at home continued with him picking his fifth five-wicket haul in just seven innings as India bowled out New Zealand for 296 in the first innings. Patel’s efforts of breaking the back of New Zealand’s innings meant that India took a 49-run lead, which eventually became 63 at stumps on day three at the Green Park Stadium on Saturday despite losing Shubman Gill cheaply.
Patel was a central figure in India bouncing back from an underwhelming day two to take the upper hand on day three. The spin troika of Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin, and Ravindra Jadeja spun a web around the New Zealand batters, taking nine wickets overall.
Patel’s show began in the post-lunch session, starting with taking out Ross Taylor and Henry Nicholls in quick succession. The left-arm spinner got a length delivery to turn and take the outer edge off Taylor’s bat on forward defence to substitute keeper KS Bharat (as Wriddhiman Saha had neck stiffness). He then returned in his next over to take out Nicholls, who missed the sweep and was rapped on the back pad. Nicholls reviewed the decision but couldn’t reverse it.
Latham, who was as solid as a rock, fell five short of his 12th Test hundred in a sudden rush of blood moment in the 103rd over. The left-hander came out to defend, but the inner edge rolled to Bharat, who kept his balance to complete the stumping, giving Patel his third wicket. In the final session of the day, Patel sneaked one past Tom Blundell’s defence to hit the stumps with low bounce. He then completed his fifth five-wicket haul in Test cricket by surprising Tim Southee with an angled-in delivery, which spun past the bat to leave the stumps shattered.
It was clear that handing Patel the second new ball from the other end worked wonders for India. He used the crease well, managed his pace, and used his round-arm deliveries to good effect in extracting some purchase from a slow pitch. He also got good help from Bharat, who took two catches and effected a stumping off his bowling.
Earlier, Ashwin was the first bowler to give India the breakthrough as Will Young (89) edged an outside off delivery, which kept low, with the outer edge snapped by Bharat taking a superb low catch in the 67th over. Ashwin almost had his second wicket in the 73rd over had India taken the review. The ace off-spinner got one to turn from leg-stump and rapped Latham’s pad in front of off-stump. Later, replays showed three reds, which meant a costly miss for India.
Kane Williamson was nervy against Ashwin but came out in full flow against Jadeja, smashing him for boundaries through cover and point. After taking the new ball, India were instantly rewarded with Williamson’s wicket at the stroke of lunch, as Yadav got a length ball to nip back in and rapped the right-hander on his back pad. Williamson reviewed but replays showed the ball hitting the top of the middle stump.
Debutant Rachin Ravindra looked good while striking Ashwin for boundaries but his promising stay at the crease ended with Ravindra Jadeja bowling him through the gate as New Zealand wobbled from 214/2 to 241/6. After Patel left the visitors reeling, Kyle Jamieson showed some resistance before miscuing a slog to Patel at deep mid-wicket off Ashwin in the 139th over. Four overs later, the off-spinner had William Somerville clean bowled to wrap up New Zealand’s innings.
Starting off the second innings with a 49-run lead, India lost their first wicket as Gill was clean bowled by an incoming delivery from Kyle Jamieson hitting the top of off-stump. The dismissal also made Jamieson the fastest New Zealand pacer to reach 50 Test wickets in nine innings, breaking former spee’ster Shane Bond’s record which, he had achieved in 12 innings.
Cheteshwar Pujara got some boundaries while Mayank Agarwal was cautious in taking India to safety till stumps were called, completing a day in which India have their noses ahead of New Zealand with two days left in the match.
Brief scores: India 345 (Shreyas Iyer 105, Tim Southee 5/69) and 14/1 in five overs (Cheteshwar Pujara 9 not out, Kyle Jamieson 1/8) against New Zealand 296 in 142.3 overs (Tom Latham 95, Will Young 89, Axar Patel 5/62, Ravichandran Ashwin 3/82), leading by 63 runs.