India’s fast-bowling trio led by an inspired performance from Mohammed Shami brought the team right back into the contest on Day 5 of the World Test Championship final in Southampton. After a disappointing performance on Day 3 where they were collectively guilty of bowling a touch short, the pace unit got its act together and it paid dividends on the penultimate day of the encounter.
New Zealand started the day in the ascendancy with 101 on the board for the loss of their openers with two of their most experienced batsmen at the crease. India could not afford the pair to get away and score quick runs. Bumrah started proceedings and there was an immediate improvement in his bowling – he had started to get back his rhythm late on Day 3 and he continued from there. Although his stock delivery was just back of a length he slipped in the odd full one and caused trouble to Williamson on a couple of occasions in the very first over itself.
Ishant Sharma was bowling a full length beautifully from the other end and both the bowlers were giving nothing away keeping the batsmen honest and on their toes in the first half an hour. India dried up the runs completely as only 4 runs were scored off the first seven overs.
Shami started off from where he had left on Day 3 – his first delivery of the day was angled in, swung prodigiously then hit the seam and moved away. Taylor looked uncomfortable at the crease. India continued to mount relentless pressure and after three consecutive maidens Shami got his man pitching it full and tempting the New Zealand veteran to drive only to be caught by a fine catch from Shubman Gill at covers.
New Zealand were kept under a tight leash with India delivering as many as 29 maidens out of a total of 69 overs bowled to them. Ishant then reaped the benefits of probing in the corridor consistently with a full-ish delivery which came in from around the stumps but then just left the left-hander Henry Nicholls to kiss the outside edge into the safe hands of Rohit Sharma in the slips. Shami made the morning session sweeter getting the wicket of BJ Watling with an absolite jaffer in the very next over – a beautiful delivery pitched up which seamed away to beat the defenses of the man playing his last Test for New Zealand.
India dominated session 1 on Day 5 picking three big New Zealand wickets and giving nothing away – they had conceded just 34 runs in the 23 overs they bowled in the session.
Shami struck with the new ball post Lunch using the bowling crease magnificently to his advantage – he went wide of the crease and used the angle to get one to jag back in to Colin de Grandhomme trapping him leg before wicket. Kyle Jamieson became his fourth victim and holed out to long leg after hitting a few meaty blows.
Ishant finally got the prized scalp of Williamson for 49 tempting him in the corridor again with a full length and finally inducing a false shot for a simple catch to Kohli at third slip. Ashwin and Jadeja wrapped up the innings at 249 which meant that New Zealand had in effect scored 148 for 8 on Day 5. With New Zealand to bat last on the wicket, India was right back in the balance. From 75-25 to New Zealand at the start of play, the Indian seamers had pulled it back to make it 50-50.
The length was the key for the Indian pace trio on Day 5. Instead of pitching 8 metres away from the batsmen, a majority of their deliveries were a touch fuller around the 6 metre back which did the trick for them. Ishant and Shami got a lot more swing especially with the new ball and all the three bowlers bowled with great discipline and on one side of the wicket not letting the New Zealand batsmen away. This meant even in the periods when there was a dry spell in terms of wickets the game did not move away from India.
Shami was once again the pick of the Indian bowlers – and this time he was lucky in the wickets column too. He returned with 4-76 in 26 overs and used the crease brilliantly. A minor adjustment in line closer to the fourth stump and a two metres fuller length and he was all over the New Zealand batsmen.
Ishant returned with three wickets and also was very restrictive going at less than two an over. Bumrah did not take any wickets but created more chances today than on Day 3 also keeping things tight and testing the batsmen throughout his spell.
A collective fightback by the Indian fast bowlers brought India right back into the contest.