India, starting the day at 146/3, quickly found their foot away from the peddle, with Kyle Jamieson’s brilliant spell reducing them to just 217 runs in the first innings. In reply, the Kiwi openers batted with tremendous patience against the Indian new-ball bowlers before ending day on 101/2.
Brief Scores - New Zealand 101/2 (Devon Conway 54, Tom Latham 30; Ishant Sharma 1/19) trail India 217 all-out (Ajinkya Rahane 49; Kyle Jamieson 5/31) by 116 runs
Kyle Jamieson’s ‘tunes’ made India dance
At an average release point of 2.22m, Kyle Jamieson is definitely one of the tallest bowlers in world cricket. Now combine that with a ball that is 70-overs old, with conditions overcast, it makes the lanky pacer one of the toughest prospects in world cricket. That was exactly who India was facing in Southampton, a pacer who knew his game at the back of his hand, a bowler who thus far, in Tests, averaged under 15 consistently. While he came on to bowl in the 11th over, as we had written earlier in the game plan, he was immediately effective against the Indian openers - sending back Rohit Sharma.
On the other end, Shubman Gill had shown the batsmen, the perfect ploy against Jamieson - to bat him on the front foot, scoring ten runs off his five overs. But somehow, the wind hadn’t caught the sails with the other batsmen - who gave him plenty of respect. Since bowling to Gill, the pacer bowled 12 overs, conceding just five runs, picking up two crucial wickets. While Jamieson wasn’t getting the ball to swing way off the mark, he was getting it to seam, just enough (0.91 degrees) to put the element of doubt inside the batsmen’s head.
Two deliveries that were on either end of the spectrum - one on the stump and the other way away from it - resulted in two of his dismissals on the day. Against Kohli, as the pitch-map from ICC, that was the only delivery that was hitting the stumps. While the Indian skipper not only failed to realise that, he did not get in within the line of the ball, getting trapped well in front. On the other hand, against Pant, Jamieson had bowled one of the three widest delivery to take the edge from the left-hander. All of this after the ball was 70-overs old, showcasing why the BlackCaps have been one of the best bowling units.
New Zealand’s counter-approach to the Indian openers
A coin always has two sides - head and tail - similarly, the two opening partnerships had two sides - India and New Zealand. While India were determined on their approach to step out of the crease, having an average interception point of 2m from the stumps, New Zealand had a completely different approach. The BlackCaps’ openers - Tom Latham and Devon Conway - had found their ‘safe’ home well within the batting crease and were determined in playing the ball on the back-foot, instead of advancing on their front feet. Latham, in particular, had a deeper interception point, at 1.8m in comparison to India’s Shubman Gill, who had it at 2.2m.
While India too were adamant about leaving the deliveries, New Zealand adopted an eerily similar approach, with Latham leaving 45% of his deliveries, knowing that he has a pertinent weakness against the pacers from around the wicket. Not just that, the left-handed Latham had left alone his first eight deliveries, from around the wicket, taking away any possibility of an outside edge. Two different approaches, one common motive - openers taking the English shore by storm, with this becoming the first Test in England, since 2013, to have both the teams’ openers surviving the first 20 overs of the innings.
Despite India bowling 14 overs from around the wicket, New Zealand took a leaf out of their own approach from the England series and put on a patient show against one of the best bowling units in the world.
Devon Conway surfed the storm after having weathered it
At the age of 29, Devon Conway made his international debut for New Zealand, years after his struggle in South Africa. His debut, against England with James Anderson and Stuart Broad steaming from the bowling end. He did not just make his debut, he left an indelible mark on international cricket, in just his first innings, he scored a double century, earned his rightful name on the Lord’s honours board and showed the world that he is highly anticipated for a reason. In the second Test, he scored another significant score, with an 80 against England to only strengthen his CV before the World Test Championship final against one of the best bowling attack, in the form of India.
Questions rightly were in front of him, with the left-hander having never faced a quality spin attack thus far in his international career. But India weren’t just a quality bowling attack, India were in fact, one of the best in the world. So against India, the hopes were naturally against him. But he didn’t just weather that damn storm early on in the session, he ensured that the storm was nothing but waves for him, to surf on his surfboard. Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, all of the superstars couldn’t move an inch out of him. He stood his crease unperturbed and went around his business like he has been playing Test cricket for the past 20 years.
When he was still on 54 runs, ESPNCricinfo had reckoned that he had a control percentage of 81%, having played 149 deliveries in the innings, against one of the best bowling attacks. It isn’t a small test, it was a big test that he passed with flying colours. Fair now to say that Conway isn’t just a hype, he is a statement before his terrible dismissal.