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But on Sunday, young Williamson was back in his element. Up against him, were Ravichandran Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha, both relishing the adequate assistance that the Uppal wicket had on offer. His approach remained positive throughout. Whether while defending or putting the rare loose ball away, Williamson — the only Kiwi batsmen in this line-up with a limited trigger movement — was jumping on to the back-foot with command to length deliveries. And at the same time coming forward with an equal sense of purpose.
For close to a session and a half on the fourth day, he had — with support from Brendon McCullum in an uncharacteristically docile avatar — nullified the spin challenge en route to scoring 52. Then a delivery from Ojha dipped and turned away from him, not without nicking his outside-edge. The resistance was over.
It wasn’t the turn that really got him. Agreed that Williamson hadn’t covered the spin as well as he could have. His real downfall, however, was the extra bounce. It was this slight lift off the wicket that had been his bane in the first innings as well. In the end it was his team’s inability to adjust to it that proved to be the main reason for a comprehensive defeat (by an innings and 115 runs) in Hyderabad. A lop-sided contest where the Kiwis hardly found a footing. This made India, who until recently were under constant scrutiny for their overseas losses and big name retirements, look like ruthless behemoths.
Bounce — the real scourge of Indian and other subcontinental teams for decades. And often the bragging point for teams like Australia and South Africa to indulge in. Going from pitches where the ball rarely climbs over knee-height to ducking and weaving against flying objects directed at their throats cannot be an easy task after all. As it showed during India’s twin 4-0 drubbings in the past season.
Different ball game
But if it is the Indian batsmen’s incompetence in handling short-pitched bowling that has let them down on away tours; it is their spinners’ skill in getting deliveries to jump off a length in addition to turning them that explains their dominance on home soil. A fact that even New Zealand skipper Ross Taylor admitted to after his team’s third straight disastrous defeat overseas.
“When the ball just turns, it is a lot easier to play than when it bounces. (Then) it’s a different ball game,” he said on Sunday. Taylor, along with Martin Guptill, had fallen to similar deliveries from Ashwin in the first innings — despite seemingly having covered the turn. The Kiwi batsmen lost the mental battle against Ashwin — who finished with match-figures of 12/85 — even before they had stepped out to bat.
This inability of Test teams when it comes to overcoming their respective perils against bounce, could well also explain the recent dilution of the traditional format of the game. An era where it wouldn’t be unfair to term almost all teams except South Africa using the old adage of tigers at home and chickens abroad. The Proteas after all have reached the summit after having remained unbeaten in seven consecutive Test series away from their African shores.
The two teams preceding South Africa at No.1, have both looked out of depth while playing away from home. Andrew Strauss & Co were as helpless in the UAE and Sri Lanka as India were in Australia and England. Ranked No.8 presently, the Kiwis hardly stood a chance of putting a better show than what they managed over the last four days at Uppal, despite the presence of a couple of quality batsmen in their ranks.
Like they showed against the West Indies in November and at Uppal here, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s side still and will remain formidable opponents at home. This commanding victory might just lift the spirits of a Test side that has had little luck since they fell off the peak.
We battled weather, not just Kiwis: Dhoni
India skipper MS Dhoni praised his players for their all-round show against New Zealand but said it was not an easy task to bowl the Kiwis out twice in the match. Excerpts.
* It was hard work for us, it was difficult to get them out. We were also battling the weather and were never sure how many overs we would get to bowl at them. That was also a reason why we made them follow on.
On slick catching
* The catching was brilliant, Viru pa (Virender Sehwag) took some very good catches and (Virat) Kohli was equally good on the field. It is something we want to continue doing.
On Pujara's comeback
* He batted well. It was important for Pujara as he was returning from an injury. He has a good temperament and can play for long periods and the stroke-makers can play around him. ENS