India, the number 1 ranked side, came to New Zealand after winning seven consecutive Test matches in the ICC World Test Championship. New Zealand, on the other hand, were clean swept by Australia just two months back and were hoping for a change in fortunes.
India last played a Test series in New Zealand back in 2014 and even then, they had lost the series. However, they had managed to draw one Test. However, the Virat Kohli-led side failed to put up decent totals with the bat even as the bowlers lived up to their reputation. Bowlers dominated the series overall as well while the hosts’ batsmen did just enough to keep the team ahead every time.
With the series done and dusted now, we bring you the best XI of the Test series:
1. Mayank Agarwal
Opening the innings is one of the toughest jobs in red-ball cricket. It becomes even harder in swinging conditions. Mayank Agarwal, though not in the best of forms, had a better series than his counterparts.
A total of 102 runs in four innings generally means that the batsman had a poor-to-average series, but not in this case. It’s been that kind of a series where the ball has dominated the bat. Leaving aside a few scores here and there, the batsmen from either side didn’t do much.
Mayank Agarwal was the only shining light in the batting department for India in the 1st Test match at the Basin Reserve. Although his scores of 34 and 58 were not enough, he showed everyone that he can be a long term prospect for Indian cricket.
2. Tom Latham
Opening the batting with Mayank Agarwal will be Tom Latham, the stylish left-handed batsman from New Zealand. In the 4 innings he batted in, he scored a total of 122 runs with two half-centuries.
The highest run-scorer of the series, Latham was out early in the first innings at the Basin Reserve. After soaking all the early pressure, he was unfortunate to be out off a nothing down-the-leg delivery by Ishant Sharma.
However, he played brilliantly in the 2nd Test at Hagley Oval, making scores of 52 in both the innings. At a time when batting was tough and the bowling relentless, the southpaw showed extreme courage to give his team stable starts.
3. Cheteshwar Pujara
When Cheteshwar Pujara arrived on the big stage in 2010, his comparisons with Rahul Dravid started doing rounds. His style of play reminded everyone of ‘The Wall’. After Dravid left the scene, the mantle of no. 3 was passed to Pujara, and what a wonderful job he has done over the years!
Pujara couldn’t do much in the 1st innings at the Basin Reserve as he fell to a peach of a delivery by the debutant Kyle Jamieson. In the 2nd innings too, he fell cheaply for 11. Though there was a lot of talk about his strike-rate in both the innings, Pujara was the one who managed to blunt the opposition bowling attack.
Hagley Oval, venue for the 2nd Test match, saw a turnaround but not for long. After keeping the Kiwis at bay, he fell on the 140th delivery he faced. Before getting out, he compiled a beautiful 54, consisting of 6 boundaries. In the 2nd innings too, he made the bowlers toil hard before getting dismissed to a ripping inswinging delivery from Trent Boult after scoring 24.
4. Kane Williamson (C)
Has there ever been a more graceful captain in the history of this sport? Some names pop up in mind, but none of them even come close to this man. Kane Williamson, the magician.
He started the tournament as was expected from him, hitting 89 off 153 at the Basin Reserve. A sudden lapse of concentration resulted in his wicket, denying him a well deserved century. To accompany his battle genius, he captained his side brilliantly to decimate India in the Test.
At Hagley Oval, he was out for 3 in the first innings, off the bowling of Jasprit Bumrah. In the second innings too, Bumrah dismissed Williamson with a brute of a delivery but the Kiwi skipper ended up on the winning side.
5. Ajinkya Rahane
Ajinkya Rahane is one of the very few Indians whose batting average playing away from home is better than at home. For an Indian to score heavily in fast and swinging conditions, Ajinkya Rahane needs to be applauded.
In this series, coming at no. 5 was not easy after continuous failures of the Indian captain Virat Kohli. In the first innings at the Basin Reserve, Wellington, Rahane arrived at 40/3 and played a defiant innings of 138 balls while scoring 46 runs. In the second innings too, he toiled for 75 deliveries, delaying the inevitable i.e. India’s defeat.
In the second Test match, however, Ajinkya Rahane struggled for runs as he managed only 7 and 9 runs respectively. In the second innings especially, Neil Wagner and Kyle Jamieson targeted him with a barrage of bouncers until he fell in a rather ugly manner.
6. Rishabh Pant
When the Indian management decided to play the young talent in Rishabh Pant instead of the experienced Wriddhiman Saha, the message was clear. They wanted a batsman who can do the wicket-keeping job rather than a pure wicket-keeper who can bat a bit. With all due to respect to Saha who can play gritty knocks, Pant was picked to take the game forward batting at seven.
But as the stats show, the Test series was not one to remember for the batsmen. Rishabh Pant was no exception. Just 60 runs in 4 innings is a testament to this fact. In the first innings of the series opener, poor between the wickets resulted in his fall of wicket on 19. He threw his wicket in the second innings after scoring 25.
He mustered only 4 and 12 runs respectively in the two innings in the second and final Test. However, his wicket keeping was top-notch as he took 8 catches in the series, including the skier off to send back Kyle Jamieson in the second Test.
7. Colin de Grandhomme
Since making his Test debut a little more than three years ago, Colin de Grandhomme has become a vital cog in the New Zealand setup. With his explosive batting and more-than-capable bowling, he is a captain’s delight. And once again he did the job for the hosts with his all-round skills.
In the first Test, when New Zealand were in the middle of a collapse, he joined hands with the debutant Kyle Jamieson and bailed his team out of trouble and helped in getting a mammoth first innings lead, hitting 43 runs in the process. He also took a wicket in the second innings.
At Hagley Oval too, when the Kiwis were collapsing once again, he started to build a partnership with Kyle Jamieson, before Ravindra Jadeja castled him with a beauty of a delivery. With the bowl in hand, he got the prized wicket of the Indian captain, Virat Kohli.
8. Ravindra Jadeja
Ravindra Jadeja has a unique habit of asserting his dominance with his fielding just as he did on the 2nd day at the Hagley Oval. Neil Wagner pulled a chest-height ball from Mohammed Shami and it was travelling at the rate of knots to the square leg boundary. However, it wasn’t to be. Jadeja leapt just in time and put his left hand up to grab a single-handed stunner.
After warming the bench in the opening Test, Jadeja took 2 crucial wickets in the 1st innings in Christchurch Test. The ball to dismiss Colin de Grandhomme, in particular, was a peach. He scored only 9 runs in the first innings and remained unbeaten on 16 in the second watching India collapse like a pack of cards.
Nevertheless, his overall performance was brilliant and that should be enough for the southpaw to become the preferred spinner away from home ahead of Ravi Ashwin in the near future.
9. Kyle Jamieson
It’s a dream come true for every cricketer when he gets to play Test matches for his nation. Kyle Jamieson was no exception, and what a glorious start he has had to his career!
On his first day of the Test match, he picked four wickets, two of them being Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli, the batting powerhouses of India. To make his already fantastic debut more special, he made a quick-fire 44 runs, including 4 towering sixes which helped New Zealand stretch their lead.
As if that was not enough, Jamieson took his first fifer in the 2nd match of the series, again breaking India’s back. This time around too, he scored 49 runs, limiting India’s first-innings lead.
10. Trent Boult
Trent Boult‘s cheeky smile doesn’t give you an assumption of the deadly bowler he is. He is one of the main artilleries in the New Zealand side and always brings his best game forward.
Getting just one wicket in the first innings at the Basin Reserve, he returned with the bat to hit a blazing 38 runs off just 24 deliveries, helping New Zealand extend the lead. To finish the job, he scalped 4 wickets to makes amends for his first innings efforts.
In the second Test at Hagley Oval, he was expensive in the first innings but came back strongly to dismiss India cheaply in the second innings. Overall, his tally of 11 wickets was just behind Tim Southee’s 14 in the series.
11. Tim Southee
It was the vast experience of the veteran Kiwi fast bowler, Tim Southee, that led his side to a win against India in the series opener. For his amazing performance, he was also awarded the Man Of The Match.
After facing a lot of heat in the preceding T20I and ODI series, Tim Southee, being the experienced bowler he is, was expected to turn around things. He didn’t disappoint either. After picking 4 wickets in the first innings, he returned to grab the 10th five-wicket haul of his Test career in the second.
Continuing his form, Southee snared 2 wickets in the first innings, including the big fish – Virat Kohli and 3 wickets in the second innings to go with it. He finished the series as the highest wicket-taker (14) in the series and also won the Man of the Series award for his efforts.
~Written by Adeeb Asad
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