NZ v IND: India's troubles against the tail in numbers & what's the way out
Since 2018, India have taken the most (101) balls to dismiss 8-11 batsmen in Tests. England and Sri Lanka are behind them with 92 and 90 balls respectively.
Tail troubles in Wellington
India have collapsed for 165 in the bowler-friendly conditions of the Basin Reserve. The green grass is slowly losing its colour and the conditions are becoming good for batting. Each and every Indian fan is just hoping for one thing: if India can prevent New Zealand from taking a big first-innings lead and can bowl them out under 250, we still have a match on our hands.
As the recent past suggests, the grass is generally kept on the New Zealand pitches to hold it together. After the first day, things keep getting better for batting progressively so much so that on day three, it becomes very, very tough to break through.
With that in mind, India are elated with the fact that they have dismissed BJ Watling and Tim Southee without much damage on the morning of day two of the Wellington Test and the deficit is just 60. If they can manage to knock down three more Kiwi wickets quickly enough, the Indian batting can then dig in and even have a shot at a test victory in New Zealand after 11 years.
However, their hopes are soon put to rest by a lanky debutant, Kyle Jamieson who clobbers 44 runs off just 45 deliveries with a few sixes against off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin. The batsman at the other end is Colin de Grandhomme. Contrary to his reputation, he plays sensibly and also scores a 74-ball 43.
Just when things are about to wind up, the whimsical Trent Boult, with all his antics and movement around the wicket, clubs his way to 38 and the first innings deficit now swells to 183, making it very difficult for India to come back.
This though is not the first time that India have experienced something like this. In the recent past, since the beginning of 2018, this was the 7th occasion when India lost momentum owing to their failure of wrapping up the tail on an overseas Test assignment.
After India had South Africa six down for 202 in Cape Town, the Proteas added 84 more runs for the last four wickets. In the same series at Centurion, after reducing them to 250/6, the hosts again had lower-order partnerships and went on to win the match.
It was on two occasions on India's tour of England in 2018 when the last four wickets added more than 150 runs. In the same series, on two more occasions, the last four wickets contributed 90-odd runs to push back India in the game.
In fact, after the series was lost 1-4, Virat Kohli conceded that it was Sam Curran in particular who arrested the momentum from them on multiple occasions and was the real game changer for the home side.
In Wellington as well, the last four wickets added 132 runs and made it almost impossible for India to bounce back in the game. The common thread in all these games is that India have gone on to lose the match despite being in the game at various points.
What's the way out
There is a consideration that if you have a leg spinner or a tearaway pacer in the attack, it becomes that much easier to fold up the tail.
However, in each of the above mentioned situations, India had 3-4 quality pace bowlers with Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Shami making an appearance in these equations the most times.
While the quality of the lower order batsmen has gone up, you would back the likes of Shami and Bumrah, with the pace, the yorkers and the bouncers in their artillery, to almost scare the batsmen into throwing their wicket away.
However, this is where the problem lies. India under Virat Kohli start to bowl a lot differently when the tail-enders are at the crease and there is almost a sense of restlessness to get things done.
Instead, if they stick to the same lines and lengths which have worked for the top six batsmen, it will possibly fetch them way better results. If a delivery is good enough to dismiss a top order batsman, it is certainly good enough to dismiss the lower order.
Just because the tail is considered to have lesser batting ability does not mean that the bowlers will stop testing them outside the channel or attacking their stumps.
Yes, yorkers and bouncers are good to have and should be thrown in every now and then but making that the primary line of attack does not always fetch the desired results.
For India to level the series at Christchurch, this is one of the things that they would have to bear in mind. Come the likes of Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee and Trent Boult, stick to your strengths and refrain from instantly resorting to the bouncer barrage.
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