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IND vs NZ | Basin Reserve Day 4 Talking Points - Stranded Rishabh Pant and New Zealand’s caped hero Tim Southee

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IND vs NZ | Basin Reserve Day 4 Talking Points - Stranded Rishabh Pant and New Zealand’s caped hero Tim Southee

On Day 4, India looked resigned for an innings defeat, with the settled batsmen failing cheaply early on in the innings after ending Day 3 on a settled note. For New Zealand, it was another great day on the field and they should be happy with Tim Southee and Trent Boult’s performance on Day 4.

Rishabh Pant stranded down the road

At 22 years, the pressure was always on the left-handed Rishabh Pant to perform in New Zealand, but is the pressure really warranted? In his four away tours thus far, Pant has been an effective option with the bat and behind the stumps, he is a work-in-progress. However, the ongoing New Zealand tour, which is anyway just one-game-old, the Delhite has been effective thus far. In the first innings, the left-hander only conceded one bye, in contrast to the shambolic show in England, after taking five-plus catches. In the windy conditions of Wellington, in the first innings, Pant was a better option than Wriddhiman Saha and in just his first innings, counterattacked the Kiwi pace attack. Moreso, in the second innings, Pant was the solitary batsman who held the end up late in the innings after India’s valiant batsmen shouldered arms. 

Pant’s form kick-started in the warmup game where he scored a brilliant 70 and from there has not looked behind. In both innings, he was far more certain and solid at the crease compared to some of India’s top-order batsmen. And this is the top order that consists of Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara. Pant performed well in New Zealand, which arguably, is one of the toughest conditions for a debutant. His dismissal in both the innings was due to the situation - in the first, he was stranded down the road by Ajinkya Rahane and in the second - India had already lost seven wickets by then. 

New Zealand’s caped hero Tim Southee

Once again, New Zealand’s planning was spot-on as they continue to loot the home conditions to the fullest. After Trent Boult showed how meticulously they had planned on Day 3 to dismiss the Indian skipper Virat Kohli, Southee showed how the plans for Ajinkya Rahane and Hanuma Vihari worked perfectly for the home side. On Day 4, after Southee bowled numerous outswingers to Rahane from the other end, Boult reaped the rewards with a gentle outswinger to dismiss Rahane. Southee, further, picked up with the wicket of Hanuma Vihari and the setup once again was brilliant. He bowled three deliveries outside the off-stump to catch the Indian batsman wanting for delivery outside the off-stump, only for Vihari to find out hat he was well set up by Southee when he heard the in-swinger rattling his stump.

Throughout the Test, Southee has been in the scheme of things - building pressure, capitalising on the pressure, devising plans. With Ashwin’s dismissal, Southee had already begun the battle with Ashwin’s mind in the first innings when he bowled an out-swinger that took the all-rounder by surprise. It moved away enough to hit the top of the off-stump, catching Ashwin stunned. In the second innings, Ashwin was batting slightly on the leg-side for the ball that will swing away late. That is where Ashwin was wrong, with Southee swinging the ball late to hit the Indian on his pads to dismiss him. The final touches- the double-wicket over towards the end to finish off things for New Zealand in the first Test and walked away with the man of the match award. 

Does Ravichandran Ashwin warrant a place in the team

Ravichandran Ashwin’s role comes in the team as an all-rounder. While with the ball, Ashwin has delivered to a certain effect in the first innings, the way he was attacked by the debutant Kyle Jamieson was highly ineffective. Jamieson, playing his first Test, was offered gentle off-spinners which was delivered to the stands- four times, a record for a New Zealand Test debutant. However, since then, Ashwin came right back in the game bowling against the wind, picking up three wickets for the team. However, his role with the bat is of question. As a batsman, in both the innings, Ashwin showed vulnerability and naiveness getting caught in his own defensive trap. 

Following Day three’s play, Ashwin came out in the post-day press conference and admitted that his batting has taken a hit because of his conservative approach. Averaging 28, a lot more was expected from the right-hander down the order alongside Rishabh Pant. In the first innings, he was beaten by a late-swinger and in the second, he was caught all over the place falling right on the ground for an in-swinger. Southee set him up beautifully in both the innings, however, from a batsman with four Test hundreds, it left an after-taste like a tablet that refused to go down the throat very quickly.  

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