Kyle Jamieson celebrates pinning Jasprit Bumrah lbw
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- New Zealand 101/2 trail India (217 all out) by 116 runs.
This is a slow burn of a World Test Championship final, but with the potential to bubble up into a classic as New Zealand hold the edge against the superstars of world cricket.
New Zealand’s control of the game has been shaped by two players new to Test cricket, a sign of the strength of their system and ability of captain Kane Williamson to create an environment that allows inexperience to flourish.
Devon Conway’s barnstorming start to Test cricket continued with a determined half-century and followed Kyle Jamieson’s five wickets that cut down India and restricted their first innings to only 217.
New Zealand lost just two wickets, and both to poor strokes, in their pursuit of India’s total, reaching 101 for two, but it included Conway just two balls before the umpires called off play due to bad light.
It could prove a crucial blow on a pitch where a collapse feels possible at any moment. Conway knew this and batted bravely for the cause, taking several blows to the body to fight for his adopted country, grinding out 54 runs from 152 balls.
A slow pitch, cloudy skies and a sluggish, damp outfield have made batting a battle of wills, with this the lowest scoring rate of any Test this century. The tense nature of the occasion has added to the nerves on both sides, and the weather could still have a decisive say with a poor forecast on Monday. The reserve day was a wise insurance policy.
Much is made of the David v Goliath line-up for this final, given India’s vast resources compared to New Zealand’s, but it was a giant from Auckland who threw the first decisive slingshot of the match.
Jamieson is emerging as one of world cricket’s most exciting talents. At 6ft 8in, he relies on awkward bounce spearing into the ribs rather than pace, and can swing the Dukes ball both ways. He was too short on Saturday, and tried too many wicket-taking jaffas, but overnight recalculated his approach, intelligently pitching the ball fuller (43 per cent were full, compared to 29 on Saturday), used the inswinger more sparingly and let the conditions dictate.
His five for 31 was the fifth five-wicket haul of his career in only his eighth Test, and to put that in context it took James Anderson 25 matches to reach that many. He has 44 wickets at an average of just 14.13 and no bowler since the 1890s has taken more at a lower average. He bowls very few loose balls, too, giving him an economy rate of just 2.36 per over.
Virat Kohli was so taken by his bowling after facing him in his debut Test series last year that he was soon signed up for the Royal Challengers Bangalore. Jamieson put two new Dukes balls in his kitbag for the Indian Premier League to prepare for the England tour and was canny enough not to show his hand to Kohli when he asked to face him in the nets. “No chance I am going to bowl at you,” he told the world’s most powerful cricketer, according to team-mate Dan Christian.
It was clever. Jamieson only bowled one ball on Sunday morning to Kohli that would have hit the stumps, surprising him by pitching slightly fuller and swinging in to the pads to dismiss Kohli lbw without adding to his overnight 44. It was the slowest Test innings over 40 of Kohli’s career, the difficulty of scoring runs for a team still acclimatising to England laid bare. It was the breakthrough New Zealand needed, the pivotal moment of the day.
Kyle Jamieson appeals successfully for the wicket of his Royal Challengers Bangalore captain
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Conditions were arguably tougher than on Saturday, with the ball swinging more and New Zealand bowling fewer wide balls that could be left alone, leaving India nowhere to go. New Zealand exposed the vulnerability of the tail, a good sign for England, taking four for 65 in the morning session before Jamieson hunted down the remaining wickets after lunch.
Rishabh Pant did his best to temper his attacking instincts, taking 20 balls to get off the mark with a four off his legs, but with the juices flowing he flayed at his next delivery, edging Jamieson to slip. Ajinkya Rahane dumbly fell into Neil Wagner’s leg-side trap, paddling a short ball to square leg having been rattled by the bouncer the previous delivery. Ravindra Jadeja and Ravi Ashwin briefly counter-attacked against the second new ball and a quick 50 could have turned the tide in a low scoring contest.
Ashwin hit 22 off 27, but a thick edge to third slip snuffed out the danger and after lunch Jamieson picked up where he left off at the Pavilion End and was soon on a hat-trick after knocking over Mohammad Shami caught at slip before beating Jasprit Bumrah first ball with a yorker.
New Zealand play on green pitches at home, so their openers are good judges of the location of their off stump. They left well, but India bowled too wide giving them the opportunity to settle in without taking risks. Shami swings the ball more than Ishant Sharma and Bumrah, and was India’s most threatening bowler even without taking a wicket, and there was not much turn for Ashwin.
Tom Latham did the hard work, reaching 30 off 104 balls, but drove Ashwin to extra cover where Kohli grabbed a high catch and gesticulated to the crowd. It was probably an imaginary fight in his own head, Kohli always needs something to rev himself up, but it did prompt the Indian fans from their slumber.
Conway seemed to be guiding New Zealand to the close with the umpires twitching over the light. But just when he needed to see the day through, Conway’s concentration failed and he flicked a full ball from Ishant Sharma off his legs to mid-on. He dragged himself off slowly, but this was a good day for New Zealand and they have a chance to open up the final.