BAN vs PAK | 2nd Test | Day 1: Babar Azam, Azhar Ali put Pakistan in commanding position
4 Dec 2021
If the first day of the second Test produced stellar spells of performances and see-saw battle between the sides, the second day established India at the top of the game in the second Test against New Zealand in Mumbai.
They have gone ahead with the game so much that they can enforce the result without even walking out to bat on the third day of the game. A lead of 332 runs on a pitch that has offered plenty of assistance to spinners and enough movement and bounce for the pacers, with all 10 wickets in their hands, emphasize that the hosts are firmly in the driving seat. This leaves New Zealand to make a mountainous effort to go unscathed like in the first Test in Kanpur.
Indian bowlers of all kinds were relentless in their approach and they did not offer friendly deliveries from another end as their batting teammates were getting from their Kiwi counterparts.
The Blackcaps were bundled out for their lowest total against India in Tests and the stories and narrative of fighting spirit that they showed in Kanpur were down in the drains of Wankhede.
Mohammed Siraj’s unstoppable rise
Mohammed Siraj started the rout with one of the best fiery spells with the new ball on Indian soil in recent times and left the Blackcaps scrambling for cover even before the introduction of spin.
He got Will Young square up with a delivery that straightened and bounced more than the right-hander would have anticipated and the edge carried low to Virat Kohli at second slip. The manner of the dismissal pointed out the quality that he brings to the table for the Indian seam attack.
He wasn’t finished there only and established his discipline to bowl as per a specific plan. New Zealand opener and stand-in skipper Tom Latham has shown marked weakness against short deliveries but he was saved by an extremely low pitch in Kanpur. The Wankhede pitch though had plenty of bounce and India and Siraj knew what they were doing by having a deep square leg fielder stationed when bowling with the new ball. A sharp bouncer rising from over the wicket angle and the left-hander could only play a half-hearted hook shot to Shreyas Iyer.
India were delighted as two thorns of their flesh from the last game were dismissed even before the introduction of spin and the Blackcaps were without Kane Williamson and with an out of nick Ross Taylor.
Taylor, however, was unlucky, to get a jaffa so early in his innings and he would not have expected to be bowled by a delivery that seamed away after pitching on off stump in Mumbai. Had it been Wellington, maybe he would have had an answer to it as it would have been on the expected line.
Ajaz Patel maximises the maximum city
Returning to play Test cricket for another country in the country of his birth was good enough for a good story let alone the success Ajaz Patel had already attained by the end of the first day’s play in the Test. However, he was not finished and was hungry for more just as it has been said about the city he was born in.
He had already bamboozled Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli—two of India’s mainstays in the batting department and had already taken a five-wicket haul to celebrate his homecoming. He was not done and contend with though.
He started the day on the same note he left the last day and flummoxed Wriddhiman Saha with a rapid ball that hurried on towards him and on the next ball produced a beauty that turned past Ravichandran Ashwin’s bat ever so slightly to beat the off stumps that the right-hander could not belives he had lost his stumps.
The hunger did not end there as well and he kept on playing mind games with Mayank Agarwal, who went on to extend his century to a dady hundred. However, after rounds of duel with him, he got him with a basic left-armer’s dismissal on such turning pitches.
When Mohammed Siraj tried to thump him over the fence and the ball went up in the air, it must have been a movement of redemption for himself and his family that all the sacrifices they did while leaving the city after a few years of his childhood were worth taking.
Mayank Agarwal’s hunger and India’s happy problems
Mayank was past his 100 while starting the second day’s play and his hundred was full of counterattacking shots where he snatched the initiative from Ajaz Patel-led New Zealand bowling lineup.
Like Ajaz, he was not finished on the first day and he was eager to churn out more having reminded himself and the world about the words of wisdom he got from Rahul Dravid on making it big once set.
He played crisp shots and never allowed spinners to settle down and reached yet another score of 150 runs before doing probably his first mistake of being found out in no man’s land against Ajaz.
He walked out after scoring 150 runs and his runs have opened another box of conundrums for India going forward to the tour of South Africa. When Shreyas Iyer was handed a debut in place of Virat Kohli, he scored a century and fifty to make himself undroppable and the team management obliged by retaining him for the next game.
Yes, they did not have to take the hard call of leaving out Ajinkya Rahane as he got injured but it could be argued that he would have lost his place anyway.
So, as Iyer, on the back of a splendid century in the first Test of the series got himself ahead of a non-performing asset in the form of Rahane, will Mayank Agarwal will be preferred over Cheteshwar Pujara, for his lack of control and diminishing confidence while batting even on Indian pitches which used to be his bread and butter in heydays.
Looking ahead to the third day
India are in driving seat and even a collapse on the third morning of the Test won’t push them out of the game immediately. Hence, the third day is more relevant for individual performances as India would be hopeful of a big innings from Pujara and captain Kohli who missed out in the first innings.
The impact of India’s batting from this stage should not have any bearing impact on this Test match but it would either solve the issues of some out of form batsmen or it would clear the way for the team management as to who all are in perfect shape with the bat to go to South Africa.
For New Zealand, the first session of the third ay will be crucial as a cluster of wickets in the morning session can bring them back in the game if they would produce a bit of magic with the bat. However, with the approach India have taken with Pujara and Mayank going all guns blazing against spinners, they would be knocked out of the race by the end of the first session.