Williamson, Ishant, The Trail Continues Punch-counterpunch Day > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more
Cricket news - Williamson, Ishant lead the way on punch-counterpunch day
The annoyance was very visible in Williamson's body language from the moment he realised he'd been caught by Jadeja at cover
And then on Saturday, February 22, Kane Williamson chucked his gloves away in angst. It was the closest the coolest man in the cricket world had ever come to losing his cool around a cricket field. To his credit, the Kiwi captain waited till he was clear of the cameras' glare and nearly past the fence before throwing his right glove across to where some other paraphernalia had been left behind to dry within the ropes. The left followed soon after.
The annoyance was very visible in Williamson's body language from the moment he realised he'd been caught by Ravindra Jadeja at cover. And why wouldn't it be. He'd after all been in complete control of not just the proceedings but even the conditions, or so it seemed based on how masterfully he'd dealt with the tricky Basin Reserve pitch. Nearly every other batsman had stepped foot on it with trepidation and been rather unsure for most parts about how much or how far to commit to each delivery. For, at times it had looked like even the bowlers shared their lack of trust over what the surface was capable of producing.
But Williamson had sauntered in, twirled his bat around, and made batting look as comfortable and pleasurable as a walk down Oceanbeach road in his hometown of Mt Maunganui. Where others, across both teams, drove at balls more in hope than conviction, Williamson put on a masterclass on driving the ball through the off-side. While others struggled with varying pace and bounce of the wicket, Williamson seemed to be setting the tempo for each ball he faced - in terms of how late he was managing to play them. If anything, he was doing what he does so very routinely in these parts. And then for it all to end with an innocuous aerial poke in the direction of the one fielder you shouldn't be giving a chance to.
Williamson's frustration though wouldn't have had too much to do with falling 11 runs short of another Test century. We've known him long enough now to rest assured that talk of solely wanting to contribute for the team's sake isn't a cliche with him. That really is his sole motivation. And by getting out when he did, the captain had let go of a great opportunity to grind India into the dirt and procure potentially irreversible control of the match.
Having said that, the Indians led by Ishant Sharma had played their role too in not letting Williamson and the Black Caps get too ahead of the game. The hosts had come back from the tea-break with Williamson and Ross Taylor well-set and looking good for many more. They'd then scored at nearly four an over for a 13-over period, 11 of which had at least a boundary scored in it. For a brief period, it felt like you'd been transported back in time - by only a few years - to when Indian attacks would regularly fail to make an impact on a pitch away from home, which their counterparts had thrived on. As the boundaries began to flow - mostly off loose balls - and Virat Kohli's reactions at second slip got more agitative, you wondered whether it was just another Indian captain resigning to the uncomfortable fate that an away Test had slipped away in the early going.
Like they seem to do so often though, Ishant & Co. once more showed that this is a unique Indian team. That even when not in their comfort zone, and even when under the pump, this attack has the reserve and the resolve to bring their team back into the contest. Like they did at the Basin Reserve on Saturday.
Williamson's wicket itself was a culmination of that rearguard effort with the ball. In what was a theme of Day 2, it was orchestrated by the seniormost member of that attack. Ishant had provided the first breakthrough, although through fortuitous means, in his second spell after the openers seemed to have bunted the new-ball.
Ishant Sharma led India's comeback, ensuring that New Zealand didn't' get too far ahead
He'd then returned to bowl the over of the day, getting four cross-seam deliveries to swing and seam more prodigiously than we have seen from either team over the first two days. That is before he produced a ball that seamed back sharply and through the defences of Tom Blundell. Even if you could ascertain that this is a pitch that suits bowlers of a certain height, Ishant also bowled exactly where he needed to, bringing the batsmen on to the front-foot more than any other bowler in the Test.
He started off equally incisively in his fourth spell of the day, immediately getting the two seasoned Kiwis to hop around and feel slightly anxious, with deliveries that from nowhere sprang at them. If Williamson seemed to nullify the uncertainties of the pitch, Ishant seemed to bring them to life.
He did so with the ball that had Taylor caught at Cheteshwar Pujara, who'd been moved to leg-gully just a few deliveries earlier. It was the kind of length that the veteran in his 100th Test had dealt with easily till that point. But when it reared up and followed him a little, he could do little but just awkwardly lob the ball up off his gloves.
The Taylor wicket was just the catalyst India needed to claw their way back. On a day they had not always looked their best with the ball - purely in terms of being accurate with their lengths - they suddenly found their second and third wind to block up Henry Nicholls. Only 19 runs were scored in the 11 overs between Taylor and Williamson getting out. It was perhaps this sudden shift in momentum that stalled the Williamson charge, and in turn had him play his first and last half-hearted shot of the day.
While the jet-lagged Ishant was the star of the day for India, despite having slept all of 40 minutes the previous night, R Ashwin played a part too in the process. He'd started his spell with the most positive of signs as umpire Aleem Dar's hat was symbolically blown away by the stiff breeze in the direction at which the northerly was heading. It meant that the off-spinner had plenty of drift to work with. It didn't help though that Ashwin had to play a dual role of defend and attack owing to the match scenario. While he's used to bowling with in-out fields, at times there was a defensive element to the fields set for him here. But with the Kiwis creeping up on India's paltry first innings total, you couldn't question its motive.
Ashwin though wheeled away at mainly an off-and-middle line, while occasionally trying to force an error by pitching it outside off-stump. Though his figures might not show it, he did his job too. And when he was given the chance to break free in terms of his approach, Ashwin immediately snapped up Nicholls with the perfect off-break that rose slightly and caught the outside-edge.
And it all started when Kane Williamson chucked his gloves away in angst. It was the point when India threw theirs back into the ring.
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