Tim Southee’s twin strikes after New Zealand took a slender first-innings lead gave them the edge over India in the ICC World Test Championship final in Southampton. At stumps on Day 5, India were 64 for 2, leading by 32 runs. With 98 overs available on the reserve day, India’s first job will be to stretch that lead till they are safe. Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara are in the middle, with Southee accounting for both Gill and Rohit.
Shubman Gill and Rohit Sharma started on a decent note as India began the second innings with a 32-run deficit. Conditions were much better than in their first innings. The sun was out and the ball wasn’t swinging as much, but the bowling was as accurate as ever.
The openers batted out 10 overs before Gill was lbw to Tim Southee, playing across the line to an inswinger. India wiped out the 32-run deficit with Rohit and Cheteshwar Pujara going about well.
Rohit reached 30 and looked in fine touch but Southee once again gave the breakthrough with an inswinger. Rohit offered no shot and was just about lbw, the ball clipping off stump according to ball tracking.
Kohli and Pujara then saw through till stumps.
Earlier, New Zealand were dismissed for 249 in reply to India’s first innings 217, a lead of 32 runs.
After yet more rain delayed Tuesday’s start by an hour, paceman Mohammed Shami led the way for India with an impressive 4-76 from 26 overs.
New Zealand resumed on 101-2, still 116 runs behind.
Williamson and Ross Taylor, New Zealand’s two most experienced batsmen, added just 16 runs in Tuesday’s first 13 overs so good was the India bowling in overcast conditions that made batting difficult.
But Shami had Taylor out for just 11 when a mistimed drive was caught by Shubman Gill at short extra-cover.
Ishant, bowling from around the wicket, then had left-hander Nicholls well-taken by Rohit Sharma, moving across to his right at second slip.
And there were huge cheers from the India fans among a hardy crowd when New Zealand’s 134-4 was transformed into 135-5 as Shami clean bowled BJ Watling, playing his last match before retirement, with a superb delivery that darted past the outside edge and hit the top of middle and off stumps.
Kyle Jamieson, who took five wickets in India’s innings, drove Shami, armed with the new ball, for a magnificent straight six only to fall to the very next delivery when a top-edged hook was well caught at fine leg by Jasprit Bumrah.
Williamson cut Shami for four to go to 49.
But in sight of joining New Zealand opener Devon Conway (54) in making a fifty this match, his painstaking 177-ball innings ended when he steered Ishant to opposing captain Virat Kohli at second slip, with New Zealand 221-8.
But tailenders Tim Southee and Trent Boult both hit sixes before the innings ended when Southee played on to left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja for 30.
This match would, ordinarily, have been a draw after the first and fourth days were both washed out without a ball bowled.
But with the International Cricket Council confirming that Wednesday’s reserve sixth day, featuring a maximum of 98 overs, would be used, there was still hope a two-year process to crown red-ball cricket’s first official world champion might end with a winner.