2nd over: New Zealand 1-0 (Conway 1, Latham 0) Kohli has demoted Jasprit Bumrah and handed the new ball to Mohammed Shami, India’s best bowler in the first innings. Devon Conway, who seems to have arrived in Test cricket as an instant senior player, has a plan: don’t get bogged down. He hooks the first ball, keeping it down but not getting it past square leg, and then tucks the second for a single. Latham, as a native-born Kiwi, is more cautious, leaving everything he can.
“What do you reckon, Tim?” says Alex Bramble. “I have a sneaking suspicion that even Joe Root and England’s house of cards of a top order might fancy a crack at this chase.” Ha, yes, even Dom Sibley might try to go at two an over.
1st over: New Zealand 0-0 (Conway 0, Latham 0) Under a gentle sun, Ishant Sharma gets the ball rolling, or seaming. Tom Latham, fresh from all those catches, starts his innings as if he’s been asked to show everyone what the word “compact” means.
The Indians are out there and in a huddle. Virat Kohli is making a speech, and the look in his eye is even more intense than usual. Woe betide anyone who fumbles the ball in the field.
New Zealand’s new superstar, Kyle Jamieson, was as exacting as ever, but the laurels went to the old firm. Tim Southee finished with 4 for 48, Trent Boult 3 for 39, and Neil Wagner (1 for 44) chipped in by breaking the vital partnership between Rishabh Pant and Ravi Jadeja. Colin de Grandhomme, the man who makes very little happen, wasn’t needed at all. And no Indian batsman made 50 in either innings, though Pant (41) deserved one for his fearless counter-attack. So New Zealand have what looks like a very manageable chase, 132 off about 45 overs. But India have the firepower, and the fighting spirit, to make them sweat.
Wicket! Bumrah c Latham b Southee 0 (India 170 all out)
Bumrah gets turned round by Southee and that’s yet another catch for Latham, now back at second slip So India have lost four for 14 in 22 balls, and New Zealand need 139 to win the World Test Championship.
Wicket! Shami c Latham b Southee 13 (India 170-9)
Another one! Shami slices Southee over the slips for four, so Williamson posts a fly slip, 20 yards in from the rope. Shami plays the same shot again next ball and sends the ball straight into the safe hands of Tom Latham. The lead is 138 and the New Zealanders are on fire.
72nd over: India 166-8 (Shami 9, Ishant 1) Ishant gets off the mark too, nudging Boult off his hip. Later in the over, after a single from Shami, Ishant pops a simple chance to short leg – but the man is 10 yards back, so he gets away with it. This is gripping stuff. India lead by 134 with about four hours to go.
71st over: India 164-8 (Shami 8, Ishant 0) The question now is whether India’s three fast bowlers can eke out enough runs to give themselves something to play with. My guess is that they needed at least another 40 when these two batsmen came together. Mohammed Shami, facing Southee, gets 20 per cent of those in two shots: a cut and a pull. Has he chosen the perfect moment to become an all-rounder?
“This is proving a great contest,” says Ian Forth, “not least because it’s been two nations fielding (possibly arguably in the case of India) their greatest-ever sides. It’s extremely hard to think of another year in Test match history when that would have been close to being the case. Close (but not that close) in recent history to England v South Africa ten years ago and Australia v West Indies around 1993 perhaps. Any other contenders, barring the first few years of Test cricket, of course?”
70th over: India 156-8 (Shami 0, Ishant 0) I hadn’t even had time to say thanks Adam and afternoon everyone before a wicket fell – and then another. So Boult returns with a double-wicket maiden, and the New Zealanders can smell victory now.
Wicket! Ashwin c Taylor b Boult 7 (India 156-8)
One brings two! Boult dishes up what looks like a rare bad ball, a wide half-volley – but Ashwin chases it and presents a nice thick nick to Ross Taylor at first slip. India lead by 124 and that’s their last decent batsman gone.
And on that note, with drinks on the field, I’ll say goodbye. What wonderful Test cricket. Thanks for your company. For now, I’m heading down the road for a Covid jab! But I’ll be following the rest of the action with Tim de Lisle – I suggest you do likewise. Bye!
WICKET! Pant c Nicholls b Boult 41 (India 156-7)
What a bowling change! Boult’s done it with his second ball back into the attack! Pant was unable to help himself on the charge, a fat top edge heading over the head of Nicholls at backward point. And what a catch, running back with the flight, taking it over his left shoulder! That could, and really should, be the defining moment.
WICKET!!! Pant c Nicholls b Boult 41 (India 156-7)
A huge moment. Pant dances down the track, lifts the ball into the south-coast sky, and has to watch as Nicholl, running out from gully with time to mess up, judges the catch beautifully. Live by the slog, die by the slog.
69th over: India 156-6 (Pant 41, Ashwin 7) I’ve got Williamson’s ear: it is Tim Southee to replace Neil Wagner, who put in a mighty shift either side of lunch. Pant’s first signs of hyperaggression before lunch were against Southee in the over after he put him down at second slip. But he’s happy enough in watchful mode here with 59 overs still to come in this Test. Loads of time. The lead is 123.
“Hello Adam.” Andrew Benton, I’m sure you’re enjoying this. “Caught by a man with a dislocated finger – what’s the most disadvantaged a successful catcher has been in test cricket? Fallen-out contact lenses? Toupee in front of face? Choking on some gum?”
I’ll throw that open for Tim de Lisle’s stint. He’ll be here shortly.
68th over: India 155-6 (Pant 40, Ashwin 7) Jamieson to Pant, who is playing him with respect. How is he setting this up? Waiting for Southee and Boult before turning up the volume again? Waiting until Ashwin plays himself in? As I type, he takes on the short ball, albeit with a controlled hook to deep square to retain the strike.
67th over: India 154-6 (Pant 39, Ashwin 7) Wagner persists, the 11th over of this spell. The runs are starting to come from him a fraction more easily, but he’s still a threat with every ball. Pant retains the strike with a full-blooded pull, to the deep midwicket sweeper. Time to give him a rest, I reckon. Time for your NZ’s banker, Tim Southee.
“It’s been a pleasure to follow this OBO with you on the comms, Adam.” Love to you have you with us, Abhijato Sensarma, and everyone else who has dropped by for the ride. “Most experts hadn’t given this match a chance for a positive result – but there’s something about sports that demands optimism. In the face of both life and bad light, I suppose, there’s nothing but hope that carries us forward. I don’t intent to be overly sentimental, but ah, haven’t these six days been a joyful for cricket fans? All four results still on.”
I called a tie in the preamble yesterday and I’m not giving up on it!
66th over: India 147-6 (Pant 36, Ashwin 3) Jamieson to Ashwin, the latter still looking to score – at no point today has it looked like India are keen to hang around and save this until the point when they have no choice to accept that reality. Along the way he’s beaten again by Jamieson, another beaut of an outswinger.
“Hi Adam.” Hello, Richard Hirst. “Two top class, disciplined sides is definitely the way forward.” I agree. Can they stay all summer?
65th over: India 147-6 (Pant 36, Ashwin 3) Wagner, short. Pant, pulls. For one. Ashwin is taking him on too! Over backward square, gets a couple. There’s a field change, Williamson into square leg, and that’s exactly where the next ball goes – just over the captain’s head. On telly, they show that Jamieson was in this position until earlier in the over… he might’ve reached that! Deary me. The lead is 115.
“I suppose the turning point in this match may be deemed to be the moment when Southee dropped Pant off Jamieson,” suggests Colum Fordham. “On the other hand, Pant’s flamboyance and carefree/careless approach to batting means that India will be able to set New Zealand a target and that will make for a fascinating finale. Will the Kiwis go for it or dig in? I suspect the former.”
The very fact that we can’t get a definitive read on this hour to hour (over to over!) reinforces why Test cricket is a magnificent beast.
64th over: India 143-6 (Pant 35, Ashwin 0) A word for Watling who, as Athers notes on telly, is doing this tough job with a dislocated finger. Sure, it was one of the easiest catches of his long career but if that hits the wrong part of his glove, it could easily bobble out. Jamieson now, to Pant, who takes the single on offer to midwicket – nothing unorthodox about his approach after losing Jadeja… yet. Ooh, and Jamieson goes very full to Ashwin with a hooping outswinger, ever so close to kissing the outside edge. The new man shoulders arms to finish, a ball right in the corridor of uncertainty.
63rd over: India 142-6 (Pant 34, Ashwin 0) The wicket maiden is complete with Ashwin defending the one Wagner ball he has to negotiate. Now, back to Pant. Does he take it to yet another gear, backing himself to pile on quick runs? The lead is 110. Riveting!
WICKET! Jadeja c Watling b Wagner 16 (India 142-6)
Thrilling, disciplined, brilliant cricket from Wagner! So much short stuff from the left-armer around the wicket; so much patience from Jadeja. But on this occasion, a fraction fuller, he plays when he doesn’t need to, and the feather lands in the safe gloves of Watling.
62nd over: India 142-5 (Pant 34, Jadeja 16) Ohh, is that a missed run out? Pant takes a quick single and Conway races around from cover, kicking at the non-strikers’ stumps. It isn’t far away… and it would have been out! Did he have enough time to bend down and flick from there? I suppose it’s all down to instinct in those moments. Jadeja continues to leave well before getting one in his half, celebrated by getting into the front foot to drive through cover point with control for three. That takes the lead to 110 with the partnership 33.
61st over: India 138-5 (Pant 33, Jadeja 13) Outrageous from Pant, busting out a switch hit to start Wagner’s new over from round the wicket, eventually helping it safety to third man for one. In at Jadeja’s body again and so close to landing back on his stumps after hitting a combination of thigh pad and inside edge. Another nasty short ball follows, Jadeja able to get his body out of the line of fire. And again – this is relentless – and it does sting him on the torso, landing with Nicholls at short leg. I hope he has a rib guard on.
60th over: India 137-5 (Pant 32, Jadeja 14) So close! The fuller Jamieson has been in this Test the more dangerous he’s looked, which is the case here to Jadeja from over the wicket, angling across and swinging back, beating the inside edge before going just over off-stump. The sort of ball that deserves a wicket. They go again.
59th over: India 137-5 (Pant 32, Jadeja 14) Ignore what I said about Pant maybe going conventional for a while – he’s just tried to scoop Wagner. They take a bye, Watling missing the ball after all that activity. Short to Jadeja, happy to play one then wear one. Gritty.
“Hi Adam.” Allo, Rachit Gupta. “Maybe a bit harsh to carp on NZ and Kane Williamson’s tactics; but to see Wagner bowl down the legside to both left handers and no slip in place and a packed legside field; do seem like overly negative tactics this early on in the game. Maybe that’s a hat tip to the way Pant has gone about this innings! What a fantastic end to the game we are in for!”
That’s why Wagner v Pant is so addictive, with both players ignoring convention to such an extent that they can’t be assessed normally.
58th over: India 134-5 (Pant 32, Jadeja 12) They’re handling Jamieson well after lunch, Pant, after that wild swing to begin, playing him from the crease then driving a couple through cover. Good batting.
57th over: India 132-5 (Pant 30, Jadeja 12) Confirmation on TV that BJ Watling has dislocated the ring finger on his right hand, but he’s not giving up those gloves on this the final day of his Test career. Wagner around the wicket, short or short of a length, not giving Pant the chance to dance but he does jump across his stumps to take a single. Jadeja’s turn, and he does well to get in behind it on the backfoot then to avoid the follow-up, trained on his ribs.
56th over: India 131-5 (Pant 29, Jadeja 12) Hooley dooley, second ball after the break and Pant is again on the charge with a view to depositing the ball over the midwicket rope and again missing it after a gigantic swing. If he feathers that through to Watling, India are staring down the barrel. “There’s a fine line between carefree and careless,” says Sunny Gavaskar on TV – almost certainly the first time I’ve quoted him on the OBO, but he’s right. On the other hand, maybe the decision has been made that he will push and push with a declaration in mind. What a fascinating passage this should be.
The players are back. Kyle Jamieson, the floor is yours. He broke up the crucial partnership of the morning session, can he do likewise after lunch? Pant (28) is on strike with India leading by 98. PLAY!
“What would I be comfortable chasing?” asks Ayan. “160 or thereabouts if I have 60 overs. India would be pleased with a lead of 180 plus if they can manage it in another 23 overs. I think Kane Williamson must not fall into the defensive trap. They must remain calm but aggressive in their approach and hostile with their bowling. If NZ tries to save runs they will concede regular easy singles mixed with sporadic boundaries initially before they concede 40 odd runs in the last five overs if India gets into a declaration zone. They must think of wickets. If Indians have a weakness it’s in preserving their wickets. Get them out in another 30 runs. Go bat and win should be the aim, basically. In out field is an option later if India starts to become threatening later on.”
Quick maths. If they bat for 21 overs, that leaves 50 for the chase. That might leave them 180 odd. I reckon they’d have a dip at that.
“Will we actually get 73 overs?” asks Andrew Harrison. And not unreasonably. “Is there a cut-off time? Tell me the game won’t be perfectly poised in beautiful light, only to finish before the overs are bowled.”
My understanding is that there is no cut off on the final day, so they will need to bowl them. However, if we get beyond 7pm, it might be that bad light has a say. On the other hand, it’s a belter of an afternoon at the best time of the year to play until relatively late.
“Do you think India will survive until the new ball is taken?” asks Alexio Berejena. “I don’t see that happening. Maybe the ‘new’ ball will determine how India are going to defend their total. India might be 5 down but effectively they are 7 or 8 down I have seen bowlers going out without troubling the scorers. As a Zimbabwean who supports Virat Kohli and sympathises with KW, I would love to see a winner in this fascinating match with NZ chasing around 150.
All roads lead back to the incumbent pair. If one (or both) are around at over 81, then it’s New Zealand who are going to struggle to conjure a result. Indeed, if both are around, the second new ball might be the time they start to really go for it and open up a declaration.
“This is a masterclass from the precociously daring Pant and Jadeja,” says Ladka Lal. “150 and India are safe as NZ can’t chase it. Almost like the women’s test, this.” Might need a few more than 150, but you’re right about the two left-handers. If they’re there together for another hour after the lunch break, this might quickly drift.
Thanks, Will. And I share your optimism. Twists to come.
LUNCH: India 130-5
55th over: India 130-5 (Pant 28, Jadeja 12) Pant gets himself off strike first ball of the final over before lunch. How will Jadeja handle this from Wagner? The short ball comes, bang on target at his ribs, and he’s nearly popped it to Nicholls at short leg! Wagner around the wicket to finish bangs it in again and he wears it on the body. Gutsy batting to end another captivating session. New Zealand’s morning – picking up Kohli, Pujara and Rahane – was a fine one, but they did put down Pant in single-digits. The lead is 98 and this World Test Championship Final is still alive with 73 overs still to come. I’m going to grab some food and think about what we’ve just watched over the last couple of hours. How are you seeing it? Back shortly.
54th over: India 129-5 (Pant 27, Jadeja 12) A couple of singles eased square of the wicket early in the over off Boult before he nails his line and length to Jadeja, who keeps out a pair of handy inswingers. The second new ball might be a factor in the middle session but this Dukes is still doing plenty for the New Zealand seamers.
53rd over: India 127-5 (Pant 25, Jadeja 11) Fabulous batting from Jadeja, getting the strike early in the over then timing Wagner through midwicket, all the way along the ground for four. “You’ve got to control your emotions now,” says Nasser of Kane Williamson, with the Indian crowd alive to the possibilities that exist with Pant and Jadeja striking the ball well. “You can’t search for wickets. Stick with the discipline that has got you to this place right now.” Nearly a mix-up – yes, no – Jadeja to the danger end, Williamson’s throw off target to the extent that Watling has hurt a finger on his right hand. Out come the medical staff to see just how much damage he’s done, but with this being his final day in Test cricket, there’s no way he’ll leave the field, and he doesn’t. More sketchy running after the re-start, Jadeja slamming a square drive to point, a direct hit into his stumps from Devon Conway. But the TV umpire confirms that he’s back. Yet another eventful over, this fiinal has plenty of life in it yet.
52nd over: India 121-5 (Pant 25, Jadeja 6) Shot! Boult drifts onto Jadeja’s pads and he wants all of it, lifting through square leg for four. Boult follows up with a short ball, which he sways under. 13 minutes until lunch – that’ll be three overs, with Wagner’s final chance at Pant before the break coming up next. The lead is 89.
51st over: India 116-5 (Pant 24, Jadeja 2) So, New Zealand burn that review. Wagner is straight back to it, with another outswinger to Panrt, but, sure enough, he turns it through midwicket for two. And here’s the bouncer! The first we’ve seen from him today. Pant takes it on, an inside edge spitting into the onside. Jadeja’s turn and he’s beaten on the inside edge by a bit of extra pace before getting over the top of the final delivery, driving it through cover for two. It is, my friends, all happening in this World Test Championship Final.