The off-spinner picks up his second six-wicket haul to return match figures of 12 for 85

The carrom ball was on target, last man Chris Martin started his walk back, and the Indians celebrated. The goodly Sunday crowd roared and Ravichandran Ashwin was the toast.

Man-of-the-Match Ashwin picked up his second six-wicket haul in the Test to return match figures of 12 for 85 – the best by an Indian against New Zealand in Tests.

Dismissing the Kiwis for 164 in the second innings, the host romped home by an innings and 115 runs at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium here on Sunday, the fourth day of the first Test.

Left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha supported Ashwin admirably with six wickets in the Test and Virender Sehwag’s catching at slip on the final day was brilliant. The second and final Test begins in Bangalore on August 31.

Lack of character

Spectacular, the Indian victory certainly was. But then, the lack of character in much of the Kiwi batting was shocking. Only the dogged Brendon McCullum (42) and the impressive Kane Williamson (52) displayed some fight.

In fact, a flawed decision that ended a determined 72-run second–wicket partnership between the two batsmen opened the sluice gates.

McCullum edged an incoming delivery from paceman Umesh Yadav to his pad but saw umpire Steve Davis’ finger go up. A visibly upset McCullum departed and the Kiwis subsequently crumbled.

The proceedings began only at 11 a.m. – inclement weather prevented play earlier – and India started with spin from both ends. There was less purchase for the spinners during this phase. The lack of sunshine and pitch being covered for long periods due to rain meant the surface was not particularly dry for the spinners. The use of the roller might also have helped bind the wicket initially.

Once the track became drier, things began to happen. New Zealand captain Ross Taylor offered no shot to an Ashwin delivery that spun in to disturb the stumps. Credit should be given to the bowler here. Ashwin had largely been spinning the ball into the right-hander from the off and middle stump with a leg-side cordon in place.

This time around, he put seeds of doubts in the batsman’s mind by turning the delivery from well outside the off-stump. The shift in line worked.

Classic dismissal

Ojha maintained the pressure from the other end. In a classic left-armer’s dismissal, he bowled a teasing delivery of flight, drift and turn to find the edge of Williamson’s blade. The Kiwi had batted with footwork, soft hands and deft touch.

The left-handed Daniel Flynn missed a sweep off Ashwin’s flighted delivery and a stunning low diving catch by Sehwag at slip ended southpaw James Franklin’s brief tenure. Ashwin’s delivery had turned and bounced to force the edge.

New Zealand was on a rapid downward spiral. Ojha looped up one to Doug Bracewell and Virat Kohli held a smart catch at gully.

Ashwin trapped Kruger van Wyk leg-before when the batsman misread a carrom ball, removed Trent Boult with a top-spinner and soon it was all over 24 minutes after tea. In yet another capitulation, New Zealand had lost its last seven wickets for just 26 runs.

Earlier, the Indians were challenged by McCullum and Williamson. Both were cautious but read the length well. Ashwin had forward and backward short-legs and a silly mid-on for Williamson but no silly point. While the prospect of getting the batsman caught bat-pad with an off-break in the leg-side cordon always exists, not having a silly point could have been a ruse to get Williamson play more freely on the off-side and lure him to edge one spinning away or straightening to the ‘keeper or the slip.

Williamson, who drove with poise and style, was alert to the possibility. Soon the silly mid-on was taken out and there was a man at silly point!

Ojha operated to McCullum with two slips and a silly mid-on but no man at silly point, a logical position for a bat-pad catch for a left-arm spinner bowling at a right-hander. Once again, the ploy could have been to get the batsman to drive at the one spinning away. McCullum did not fall for the bait but then a rough decision got him.

There was a worrying moment for India when a Willamson pull off Ashwin struck Cheteshwar Pujara fielding at short-leg. Pujara went off the field with a bruised knee but an official statement said the injury was not serious.

Scoreboard

India — 1st innings: 438

New Zealand — 1st innings: 159

New Zealand — 2nd innings: M. Guptill lbw b Ojha 16 (38b, 3x4), B. McCullum lbw b Yadav 42 (130b, 3x4), K. Williamson c Sehwag b Ojha 52 (163b, 4x4), R. Taylor b Ashwin 7 (9b), D. Flynn lbw b Ashwin 11 (54b, 1x4), J. Franklin c Sehwag b Ashwin 5 (17b, 1x4), van Wyk lbw b Ashwin 13 (34b, 2x4), D. Bracewell c Kohli b Ojha 1 (16b), J. Patel (not out) 6 (9b, 1x4), T. Boult c Sehwag b Ashwin 0 (6b), C. Martin lbw b Ashwin 0 (3b), Extras (b-1, lb-10): 11; Total (in 79.5overs): 164.

Fall of wickets: 1-26 (Guptill), 2-98 (McCullum), 3-105 (Taylor), 4-138 (Williamson), 5-142 (Flynn), 6-145 (Franklin), 7-148 (Bracewell), 8-160 (van Wyk), 9-164 (Boult).

India bowling: Ojha 28-9-48-3, Zaheer 13-5-17-0, Yadav 10-1-32-1, Ashwin 26.5-9-54-6, Raina 2-1-2-0.

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