Southampton – Mohammed Shami’s beautiful morning spell put India in the driver’s seat as New Zealand’s defensive approach failed to yield great results, leaving them struggling at 135 for 5 at lunch on the fifth day of the rain-hit World Test Championship final here on Tuesday.
Shami (18-8-31-2) found the ideal fuller ‘English length’ right away while Ishant Sharma (20-9-27-2), coming for his second spell, was also penetrative as the two senior pacers bowled a probing line to keep the New Zealand batters on tenterhooks.
Kane Williamson’s men could add only 34 runs in 23 overs in the first session after a drizzle caused a delayed start.
The stylish Williamson (19 batting, 112 balls) was forced to show his defensive facet, respecting the bowling as well as conditions with only seven runs added to his third day’s score of 12 not out. The fourth day was washed out.
Ross Taylor (11, 37 balls) was dismissed as Shami reaped the rewards for finding the fuller length which enticed the batsman to go for a drive.
Shubman Gill, at short cover, took a brilliant diving catch.
Ishant then had the normally dependable Henry Nicholls (7), who went for a ‘fishing expedition’ when the lanky speedster pushed his length fuller by a yard and the edge at second slip was taken by Rohit Sharma.
BJ Watling (1), in his last Test, got a ball that would have put the best in the business in trouble.
Shami, who by then had started bossing the batsmen, bowled one that looked like shaping in but held its line after pitching, clipping the off-bail in the process. From 117 for 2, New Zealand were reeling at 135 for 5 in no time.
However, the disappointment during the morning session was Jasprit Bumrah, who bowled short and wide which former England captain Nasser Hussain termed “pretty balls” that don’t yield results.
The moment Virat Kohli replaced Bumrah with Shami, things changed drastically as the senior pacer sowed doubts in the batters’ minds.
He didn’t look to make the batsmen play and Williamson was seen doing a “Cheteshwar Pujara”, leaving delivery after delivery.
His first four of the morning came in the 20th over of the day (69th for the day), a clip off Bumrah to the mid-wicket boundary.
What Shami and Ishant did was to hit the six-metre length (good length) which did the trick for the Indians.