Close to victory, India was foiled by Kiwi all-rounders of Indian extraction

Kyle Jamiesion of New Zealand getting out and Ravindra Jadeja of India and India players celebrating the wicket of Kyle Jamiesion of New Zealand during day five of the 1st Test match between India and New Zealand held at the Green Park International Stadium in Kanpur on the 29th November 2021 Photo by Saikat Das / Sportzpics for BCCI

By Kersi Meher-Homji

Test cricket is alive and thriving. What a Test thriller at Kanpur! It was one of the most exciting Tests I have witnessed, especially the last 52 balls. Set 284 to win, New Zealand was on the ropes when they lost their ninth wicket at 155 with almost an hour remaining.

An Indian victory is for sure I told myself, as I started typing my report for e-TIDU. But the Kiwi tail-enders of Indian extraction, Rachin Ravindra and number 11 batsman Ajaz Patel, defended gallantly for almost an hour till bad light stopped play and the match ended in a nail-biting draw.

India was unlucky not to win but credit also goes to the New Zealanders who fought till the pulsating end.

Winning the toss India scored 345, thanks to debutant Shreyas Iyer becoming the 16th Indian to register a century in his Test debut. His 105 included 13 fours and two sixes. Others to bat well were Shubman Gill (51 runs) and Ravindra Jadeja (50). Fast bowler Tim Southee took 5 for 69.

New Zealand started sensationally as openers Tim Latham (95 runs) and Will Young (89) put on 151 runs. NZ looked in command at 1 for 197 but lost their last nine wickets for only 99 runs and were bowled out for 296. Left-arm spinner Axar Patel was most effective taking 5 for 62. Ashwin took vital wickets, grabbing 3 for 82.

Leading by 49 runs, India declared at 7 for 234 (Shreyas 65 and wicket-keeper Wridhiman Saha 61 not out). Fast bowlers Southee and Kyle Jamiesen captured three wickets each. Shreyas became the first Indian and 16th batsman in Test history to score a century and a fifty in his Test debut. A star is born!

Now started the excitement. Needing 284 runs to win, New Zealand lost opener Will Young at stumps on the fourth day. On replay it was shown that he was not out but he did not ask for DRS (Decision Review System) in time. On the final day, spinners Ashwin and Jadeja bowled effectively and NZ was all but defeated at 9 wickets down for 155.

But the Kiwi tail wagged powerfully as Test debutant Rachin Ravindra (18 not out) and last man in Ajaz Patel (2 not out) survived the Indian spin trio of Ashwin, Jadeja and Axar Patel for 52 balls till the umpires stopped the match because of poor light.

What a heart stopper and a nail-biter! Who says drawn Tests are boring. This Test was anything but.

Shreyas Iyer was named Player of the Match. He said at the presentation: “It’s a great feeling but winning the game would have been icing on the game. The pitch was intact but our bowlers showed great fight. My mindset was to play the sessions and play as many balls as possible. People say I am a very flamboyant player but the situation required me to play longer. So I played for the time. I am really proud the way we came out from a difficult position. I am really happy with the overall performance of the team. The pressure is always there, they had a great start and played out the first two session really well but we bounced back.”

Irony of the match: Two New Zealand batsmen of Indian extraction (debutant Rachin Ravindra and Ajaz Patel) saved their country from certain defeat.

Name coincidence: In the last few overs, Axar Patel bowled to Ajaz Patel and Ravindra Jadeja bowled to Rachin Ravindra.

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