India finished the third day’s play in a tricky spot, having lost their top-four batsmen without much on the scoreboard. From New Zealand‘s first innings lead of 183, they are still 39 runs behind with six wickets and as many sessions of play left in the first Test in Wellington. Also Read - IPL 2021 Today Match Report, PBKS vs DC Scorecard: Shikhar Dhawan Stars in Delhi Capitals' Dominant Seven-Wicket Win Over Punjab Kings
India offspinner Ravichandran Ashwin says it’s too early to be even commenting on what is defendable at Basin Reserve as they were looking to progress in the Test session by session. Also Read - IPL 2021: Confidence Increases When You Are Able to Contribute, Says Delhi Capitals Spinner Lalit Yadav
“They (New Zealand) are bowling lovely lengths and incisive in second innings even when the pitch is not the same as first day,” Ashwin said while interacting with the media after third day’s play. “They have made it hard for us and like the Test has just begun for us. They have bowled 65 overs and we have to see how they wake up and we have to bat another session in morning.” Also Read - IPL 2021 Match Report, DC vs RCB Scorecard: Rishabh Pant-Shimron Heymyer Fifties Go in Vain; AB De Villiers Delivers as Royal Challengers Bangalore Beat Delhi Capitals by One Run
He continued, “I know to keep it simple and say this is defendable and this is not, (it) is pretty much how you would want me to present it, but it’s too much — like six sessions to go and we are not even at a stage where we can say what is a good score to defend. But that is very far away and we have to take every ball at a time to be honest, because there is still enough in the surface. We are not yet in a stage from our perspective where we can look at it very far.”
India though have a settled pair in the middle in Ajinkya Rahane and Hanuma Vihari who saw through a testing spell of short bowling from New Zealand pacers to put in motion the process of slow rebuild.
India were 113/4 when the pair came together and by the time bails were drawn, had taken the total to 144/4.
“We will have to take it per session, per hour, however small a target we can set, the better it is for us. They (Rahane and Vihari) batted very well. It is important to stay in the moment and continue the way they are batting. They are set, they know what the wicket is like,” he said.
Mayank Agarwal scored 58 off 99 with seven fours and a six to keep in a well compiled innings. In contrast, Cheteshwar Pujara scored 11 off 81 before falling at the stroke of tea.
So did Pujara’s ultra-conservative approach affected India’s momentum? “It’s a fine line and you don’t really know when to attack and defend and can get really caught in between both situations,” Ashwin replied defending the contrasting approaches without taking names. “Mayank has been in rich vein of form and it matters. He has had the continuity as he had played India A games and ODIs. The bat flow is very beautiful on the ball and all these things do make a difference.”
“I think everybody is sticking to their game plans that has given them rewards over the years. To really ask them to see someone else and copy them is not the right thing to do,” he added.
India’s top-order failed again in the second innings and Ashwin said the moisture in the pitch didn’t help their cause. “There is enough in the surface. It was very moist on first day and they had watered it considerably and when it rained, they did not cover it quickly, so the dent created on grass did not let us play our shots,” the 33-year-old said.
India, though squandered the opportunity to bowl out New Zealand for a much less total when they allowed their tailenders to make healthy contributions. Debutant Kyle Jamieson hit 44 off 45 while Trent Boult scored 38 off 24.
“Sometimes we say we need to bowl out teams quicker. I’am not saying we should not, but batsmen don’t get out anymore. Lower order batters put a price on their wicket. Jamieson has got a couple of first-class hundreds and Ajaz and Boult batted really well. Credit should be given where it is due. They really understand conditions well and used it to their advantage. They tried hitting it with the breeze. That’s something we can quickly learn from them,” Ashwin said.