IND v NZ, 1st Test, Day 2: Latham, Young defy India’s spinners as New Zealand fights back

The calm and assured Tom Latham has now found an enterprising opening partner in Will Young after the two defied India’s bowlers for the best part of five hours to keep the first Test evenly balanced after Day Two here. The prudence and vigilance shown by the opening batters meant India could not dislodge them despite all the skills used by R. Ashwin & Co. as New Zealand trotted to 129 for 0 by stumps, trailing by 216 runs in the first innings.

Young (75 n.o., 180b) entertained with some excellent strokes – including drives, lofts and sweeps – even as Latham (50 n.o., 165b) was content to keep defending at the other end. Their unbroken partnership is now the first 100-plus partnership by a foreign opening pair in India in nearly five years.

Both batters showed their ability in handling spin. They used their feet well, judged the lengths early, and played with soft hands. They were happy to punish the odd loose delivery and used the sweep shot to good effect.

IND vs NZ, 1st Test, Day 2: Shreyas Iyer scores hundred on Test debut

Young attacked all three spinners – Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel – and was confident enough to come down the track to Ashwin to collect a boundary through mid-on. And when the ball was pitched short, Ashwin was swept-pulled to fine leg. The reverse-sweep, which he plays well in limited-overs cricket, hasn’t yet seen the light of day; perhaps he felt it would be too risky to bring it out. The dab to the third man region was his most profitable stroke off the fast bowlers. He played a sweep too many in the 35th over off Jadeja and was nearly dismissed lbw for 58. The review, however, saved him; the ball-tracker showed that the ball would be going on to miss the stumps.

India v New Zealand, 1st Test: New Zealand spinners not an embarrassment

Latham was lucky, too. He was twice given out lbw on the field and was saved by the referral as the ball had hit the bat first on both occasions. Late in the day, Jadeja and India thought they had finally seen the back of him when he was given out caught behind; Latham referred again, and the DRS came to his rescue again, this time proving that he hadn’t hit the ball.

The crowd had something to cheer in the morning when Shreyas Iyer reached his maiden century in the eighth over of the day. He became the 16th Indian batter to score a Test ton on debut. He struck numerous boundaries off Kyle Jamieson, some of which were streaky.

Masterclass from Southee 

Shreyas’ century notwithstanding, the morning session, too, didn’t belong to India. Tim Southee (5 for 69) bowled with such adroitness that his spells were better to watch overall than the boundaries scored. He swung the ball but also displayed his mastery in seam bowling, repeatedly trying to tempt the batters to drive by bowling in the off-stump corridor and using the crease well to create various angles.

Southee mainly had three types of deliveries with which he compelled the batters to make a mistake – some swung away from (or into) them, some went on with the angle, and some others straightened just slightly after pitching. Jadeja was the first to depart, inside-edging a back-of-a-length delivery that came on straight with the angle from around the wicket. He had left numerous deliveries outside the off-stump, and perhaps was uncertain with his defensive stroke as he didn’t know whether the ball will straighten.

Wriddhiman Saha fell soon after, playing a drive at an outswinger after leaving numerous deliveries alone – a classic trap. Shreyas, too, couldn’t resist the drive and was too early on his drive, guiding the ball straight to the hands of the cover fielder. It came on to him a touch slower perhaps. And then Axar Patel succumbed to one that straightened just a little after pitching, staying in his crease and edging behind.

Southee had a five-for, his 13th in Test cricket and his second in India, and had well and truly got his team back into the contest. His fast-bowling partner Jamieson, unlike on Day One, couldn’t make much of an impact despite getting the ball to swing. Shreyas, and later R. Ashwin, collected a few boundaries off him, the late cut from Ashwin in the 109th over being the most impressive of those strokes.

Ashwin hit three boundaries off Southee as well, in the arc between third man and cover. Ashwin may have been confident against the seamers, but he was suspect against left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel, who nearly got him out stumped with a flighted delivery when Ashwin was batting on 16.

But Ajaz didn’t have to wait an eternity to finally get some reward for his toil, eventually foxing Ashwin again with a loopy delivery that spun away sharply after pitching; Ashwin, looking to play an inside-out stroke to, exposed his stumps, misjudged the trajectory, and was bowled. And Ishant Sharma was undone by his arm ball as India’s innings concluded within three overs after lunch.

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