That’s it for today’s blog, though a match report will appear here shortly. In the meantime, why not read Tanya Aldred’s piece on the remarkable Shafali Verma.
The thoughts of Ravichandran Ashwin
“It was a great day of Test cricket. Our quicks bowled really well and Kane batted pretty well; he took the initiative in the second session. It was a lionhearted effort from our three quicks - they went on and on and on. Hopefully we can get some runs tomorrow and set it up for a good finish.
“The first hour will be important tomorrow. We’ve got to hang in there and play it by the hour; that’s the beauty of Test cricket. We’ve played all these years and we’d love to get something at the end of it, but 98 overs might not be enough from our perspective.”
Stumps: India lead by 32 runs
That was a good evening session for India. They lost both openers, but it could have been a lot worse. Although batting was less uncomfortable for much of the match, it was still extremely challenging, certainly when Southee and Jamieson were bowling. The forecast for tomorrow is fine, so there’s still a chance of a positive result. But the draw is strong favourite.
30th over: India 64-2 (Pujara 12, Kohli 8) Jamieson gets some bounce to Kohli, who takes the ball high on the bat but is able to drop it safely at his feet. Jamieson is on his haunches in frustration when Kohli inside-edges the penultimate ball of the day round the corner for a couple. He has bowled an outstanding 10-over spell, but he has no wickets to show for it. That’s stumps.
29th over: India 59-2 (Pujara 12, Kohli 3) Southee surprises Kohli with a terrific short ball that clonks him on the helmet and flies over the slips for four leg byes. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen Virat Kohli hit on the head like that,” says Dinesh Karthik.
28th over: India 51-2 (Pujara 12, Kohli 0) Replays show that Rohit LBW was just shaving the off stump, so the decision would have been upheld had he reviewed. Meanwhile, Kyle Jamieson gets one to roar back at Pujara, who leaves it on length and is almost hit on his fourth stump. This is seriously good cricket. Another maiden from Jamieson, whose figures are now 9-4-9-0.
27th over: India 51-2 (Pujara 12, Kohli 0) There are 15 minutes remaining, but Virat Kohli doesn’t want a nightwatchman.
It was a classic set-up from Southee - a series of outswingers followed by an unpicked inswinger. Rohit offered no stroke, was hit on the flap of the pad and given out by Michael Gough. He discussed a review for the full 15 seconds and then trudged off. I think that was worth a review as it might have missed off stump.
WICKET! New Zealand 51-2 (Rohit LBW b Southee 30)
Tim Southee strikes in the first over a new spell!
26th over: India 51-1 (Rohit 30, Pujara 12) Wagner falls over as he bowls a poor delivery to Pujara, who whirls it round the corner for four.
25th over: India 47-1 (Rohit 30, Pujara 8) Rohit is beaten by another snarling, kicking full-length delivery from Jamieson. What a find he has been. He’s bowled eight overs in this spell yet he looks like he could go all night.
24th over: India 45-1 (Rohit 28, Pujara 8) Rohit knows the Wagner short ball is coming, and when it does he pulls confidently round the corner for a single. This could have been an extremely awkward session for India, but they have batted superbly.
23rd over: India 42-1 (Rohit 25, Pujara 8)
22nd over: India 41-1 (Rohit 24, Pujara 8) Neil Wagner is on Trent Boult, a like-for-like replacement in type if not style. Wagner has two men out for the hook, which suggests he will mix full inswingers with a bit of rough stuff. He’s on the money straight away and beats Pujara with a superb full-length delivery. Just under 40 minutes remaining; New Zealand would love a couple of wickets in that time, especially if the second one was Virat Kohli.
21st over: India 40-1 (Rohit 23, Pujara 8) Rohit plays tip and run off Jamieson to rotate the strike or, to put it another way, let some other sod deal with Jamieson for a big. Jamieson’s figures are as good-looking as ever: 6-3-6-0.
20th over: India 39-1 (Rohit 22, Pujara 8) Apologies for the occasional service interruption; we’ve been having a few technical problems this evening. No technical problems for India’s batsmen - pick that segue out - as they continue to defend with authority against some good New Zealand bowling. And, occasionally, attack: Pujara doubles his score off his 32nd delivery by driving Boult down the ground for four. Gorgeous stroke.
18th over: India 35-1 (Rohit 22, Pujara 4) Another quiet over from Boult, who is straining desperately for rhythm. You don’t need to be a Brother Beyond fan to know what that means.
17th over: India 35-1 (Rohit 21, Pujara 4) Jamieson beats Rohit with a monstrous delivery that roars off the seam. He is going to make life a misery for hundreds of top-order batters over the next five or six years, and at the moment he is giving Rohit a decent working-over. Rohit squirts a single off the last ball to keep the strike.
16th over: India 33-1 (Rohit 20, Pujara 4)
15th over: India 32-1 (Rohit 19, Pujara 4) Jamieson does change ends to replace Southee, who bowled a skilful spell of 7-2-14-1. There’s a strangled LBW shout against Pujara - too high - and then a few oohs and aahs when a nipbacker misses the off stump. It was ultimately a good leave from Pujara.
14th over: India 32-1 (Rohit 19, Pujara 4) Boult returns after only a couple of overs from Jamieson, who may be about to change ends. A risky hook from Rohit lands short of Wagner at long leg, and then an inside-edge from Pujara falls short of the man at a deepish short leg. Pujara then flicks wristily between midwicket and mid on for three. The scores are level.
13th over: India 28-1 (Rohit 18, Pujara 1) We’ve having a few technical problems, apologies. You haven’t missed much, just some classy bowling from Southee and judicious defence from Rohit and Pujara.
11th over: India 27-1 (Rohit 17, Pujara 1) Rohit softens his hands to ensure Southee’s outswinger runs all along the ground off a thick edge. He’s played extremely well against the moving ball in this innings.
WICKET! India 24-1 (Gill LBW b Southee 8)
Goddim! New Zealand needed a wicket and Tim Southee has obliged. Gill, conscious of the outswinger, pushed around a straighter, full delivery that trapped him in front of middle and leg. Michael Gough gave it out and, though Gill was keen to discuss a review, Rohit politely (and rightly) advised him to leave the field at his earliest convenience.
10th over: India 24-0 (Rohit 15, Gill 8) Kyle Jamieson replaces Trent Boult, who bowled a disappointing new-ball spell of 4-0-11-0. He starts with a no-ball but he’s soon into his work and beats Rohit with a very full delivery outside off stump. That’s a rare false stroke in an accomplished start from India’s openers.
9th over: India 21-0 (Rohit 13, Gill 8) Gill moves the scoreboard along with three twos in Southee’s over. India have reduced the deficit to 11, and New Zealand need a wicket quicksmart.
8th over: India 15-0 (Rohit 13, Gill 2) A rare loose stroke from Rohit, who misses a vigorous cut stroke at Boult. It was the right shot to play, he just didn’t execute his goddamn skills as he would have liked. He makes amends next ball, flicking an inswinger round the corner for four. Boult isn’t bowling well, and I’d be very tempted to get Kyle Jamieson on at this end.
7th over: India 11-0 (Rohit 9, Gill 2) Southee has an LBW appeal against Gill turned down by Michael Gough. Height was the problem and New Zealand didn’t really discuss a review. The rest of the over passes without incident. The ball is still swinging, and Southee is bowling beautifully, but batting looks less uncomfortable with the sun out.
“Hi, just back from Sasso’s Italian restaurant in Harrogate (highly recommended) and catching up via the OBO,” says John Starbuck. “If you admire various things about Kane Williamson, you could at least emulate him by growing a beard. Plenty of us have (including Virat Kohli I suspect), so in these times it’s the perfect opportunity.”
Have you not seen my newest byline picture?
6th over: India 11-0 (Rohit 9, Gill 2) Boult goes around the wicket to Rohit, who slams a short ball square on the off side for four. Lovely shot. This has been an almost flawless start from the Indian openers.
5th over: India 7-0 (Rohit 5, Gill 2) This is a fascinating struggle, and so far the Indian openers have shown excellent judgement outside off stump. Southee’s third over is a seven-ball affair after a miscount from Michael Gough (I think).
4th over: India 6-0 (Rohit 4, Gill 2) Gill survives an LBW appeal after inside-edging an inswinger from Boult onto the pads. Boult’s second over is much improved, with most of the deliveries curving menacingly back into the right-hander.
“Did the ICC miss a trick in deciding that the trophy would be shared in the event of a draw?” says Gary Naylor. “Had they said that it would not be awarded, that might have made the difference between Virat offering 170 in 50 overs (which he won’t) and 220 in 40 (which he might).”
I was thinking more about the Sheffield Shield system of deciding the match on first innings in the event of a draw. Not sure you can fight to introduce a new competition for decades and then not have a winner.
3rd over: India 4-0 (Rohit 4, Gill 0) A gorgeous outswinger from Southee is edged along the ground to second slip by Rohit Sharma. Given his record - he averages 80 in home Tests and 27 overseas - it’ll be fascinating to see how he does this summer. He has improved a lot but this is still a big test.
“Afternoon Rob,” says David Jarman. “In a timeless Test, limited only by the ability of Hampshire CCC to employ ground staff to keep the lawn mown, what if the over rate slipped lower and lower? Nine overs per hour, with the close of play getting earlier and earlier as the evenings draw in. But hey, they could still hold evening T20 (or Hundred!) matches, and let the crowd in early to catch India and New Zealand’s finest in action. (I’m in Edinburgh by the way: sunset is 22:03 today.)”
Sunset might be a bit earlier if Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic get to work.
2nd over: India 4-0 (Rohit 4, Gill 0) Trent Boult’s first over isn’t quite as challenging or swingalicious as Southee’s, and Gill is able to leave the majority of the deliveries without alarm.
And I forgot to plug this at teatime. Tanya is such a great writer.
In other news...
1st over: India 3-0 (Rohit 3, Gill 0) There’s some immediate outswing for Southee, which will encourage New Zealand. Rohit Sharma gets off the mark with a thick edge for three, and Gill resists a few full-length tempters. A brilliant over from Southee ends with Gill padding up to a surprise inswinger that doesn’t miss off stump by much.
“Your 15:46 post not getting the attention it deserves,” says John Little. “I am throwing Glenn Turner vs the Aussies at Christchurch 73/74 into the ring. And a question: in my mind a ‘sticky wicket’ only comes with spinners, probably Underwood or Murali, bamboozling allcomers. A Guyana or Perth variable-bounce speedtrap doesn’t count. Thoughts?”
It refers to dampness, doesn’t it? So although spinners often do (or did) the most damage on sticky dogs, I’m not sure it applies only to them - for example, when England were 2 for 4 on a wet pitch at Johannesburg in 1999, Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock were the bowlers.
Right, who wants to be a World Test Champion? The players are ready for this extended evening session of two hours and 20 minutes. By 7pm BST, we’ll have a decent idea whether there is going to be a positive result in this game.
“A better decision for the WTC final would have been for it to be fixed at 450 overs (less changes of innings, obviously), using as many reserve days as required, unless there really was no prospect of a positive result,” says Graeme Thorn. “Then there would still be the possibility of the draw, but time lost through rain or bad light would not affect the result too much as it would be made up.”
I like the idea of timeless Tests, as mentioned earlier, but then I remember games like this between India and South Africa. If that was timeless, it would be still going on 28 years later, with Brian McMillan grinding his way to 74 not out from 43,138 balls.
New Zealand lead by 32 runs after another session of high-class cricket. The stars were Kane Williamson, who made 49 in 177 balls, and Mohamed Shami, who bowled masterfully to take four wickets. But Kyle Jamieson and Tim Southee also deserved credit for pushing the game on by scoring 51 quickfire runs. See you in 10 minutes for what should be a compelling evening session.
WICKET! New Zealand 249 all out (Southee b Jadeja 30)
Jadeja replaces Shami, who is clearly knackered. Southee rocks back and smears his first ball over midwicket for a big six. But he falls next ball, bowled via bat and pad, and that’s the end of this particular segment of fun.
98th over: New Zealand 243-9 (Southee 24, Boult 7) Southee keeps the strike with a single from Ashwin’s last delivery.
97th over: New Zealand 242-9 (Southee 23, Boult 7) Shami returns, in pursuit of a five-for. Boult, such an irritating No11, backs away and pings the ball back over his head for four. Every little helps, and New Zealand now lead by 25.
“Hello from Bengaluru, Rob,” writes Somesh S Menon. “A bit funny that Wagner was the only part of the NZ tail who didn’t wag.”
(Sorry, it’s been a long day/week/year/life.)
97th over: New Zealand 236-9 (Southee 23, Boult 1) It should be tea about now, but play will continue as New Zealand are nine down.
“Hi Rob,” says Geoff Wignall. “Surely no consideration of great bad-wicket innings can exclude Gooch at Headingley?”
Well, it could exclude Gooch’s 154 not out, but it would instantly lose whatever credibility it had. That’s probably the greatest innings I’ve seen on any pitch. The one I wish I’d seen is Javed Miandad’s unbeaten 200 for Glamorgan on a vile turner at Colchester.
Southee is not out! Yep, it missed the bottom edge and the glove. They checked the LBW as well, just in case; that wasn’t out either.
New Zealand review! Tim Southee has been given out, caught at leg slip. He missed a sweep at Ashwin, and the ball ended up in the hands of leg slip. Southee reviewed immediately.
WICKET! New Zealand 234-9 (Wagner c Rahane b Ashwin 0)
The game is speeding up. Neil Wagner has gone to the left-hander’s Kryptonite, Ravichandran, Ashwin for a duck. He pushed at a beautiful delivery that straightened sharply to take the edge, and Ajinkya Rahane took a smart catch at slip.
96th over: New Zealand 234-8 (Southee 23, Wagner 0) Southee’s jaunty performance continues with a sweet golf shot for six off Ishant. That’s the 74th six (!) of his Test career; no lower-order batsman has hit more.
“Though low-scoring, this is Test cricket at its pinnacle with excellent bowling coming up against expert batting (witness the contest between Shami vs. Kane Williamson), aided and abetted by wonderful fielding,” says Colum Fordham. “What better for the World Test Championship, except for the weather which at least appears to be improving. Pleased they’ve allotted six days but why not allow seven, eight or nine days, given it’s the final? It should be a timeless Test after all.”
There might be a logistical reason, but it will be so frustrating if this ends in a draw. I don’t think it will, mind.
95th over: New Zealand 226-8 (Southee 15, Wagner 0) Ravichandran Ashwin replaces Shami, who has been bowling since forever, and his second ball is slapped for four by Southee. He and Jamieson have scored some exceedingly useful runs.
94th over: New Zealand 221-8 (Southee 10, Wagner 0) That was fine work from Kohli, who moved himself into a wide slip position and then took an excellent catch. Williamson’s innings was a gem: 49 from 177 balls with six fours.
WICKET! New Zealand 221-8 (Williamson c Kohli b Sharma 49)
Kane Williamson’s masterpiece is over. He flashed at a wide, fullish delivery and edged it to third slip, where Kohli took a very sharp catch.
93rd over: New Zealand 220-7 (Williamson 49, Southee 9) If the weather holds, and the forecast is reasonable, India could have a very awkward evening session. A weary short ball from Shami is cuffed through the covers for four by Williamson, a shot that puts New Zealand in the lead.
92nd over: New Zealand 213-7 (Williamson 44, Southee 8) Ishant, on for Bumrah, drops Southee off his own bowling. It was a sharp chance as he stretched in his follow through. At first, as Southee launched into another slap down the ground, Ishant ducked. Then he realised Southee had clothed it and threw up his right hand in attempt to take the catch.
This extraordinary performance from Williamson has got me thinking about the great bad-wicket innings. Two come straight to mind: Len Hutton on a Brisbane sticky dog in 1950-51, and Steve Waugh on an extremely sticky wicket after he pissed Curtly Ambrose off at Trinidad in 1995.
91st over: New Zealand 211-7 (Williamson 43, Southee 8) Williamson has a control percentage of 85 which, as Dinesh Karthik points out on commentary, is unreal against this attack in these conditions. Southee couldn’t care less about his control percentage, just the runs he and his team get. There are four leg-byes early in the over when Shami drifts onto the pads; then Southee gets a big leading edge that just evades the man running back from gully. New Zealand are now only six behind.
90th over: New Zealand 205-7 (Williamson 43, Southee 6) Southree cuffs Bumrah back over his head for a couple. The intent of New Zealand’s lower order has been really good. Since the second new ball was taken they have scored 53 runs in 10 overs.
89th over: New Zealand 202-7 (Williamson 43, Southee 5) Williamson flicks Shami fine for four, then clips two more through midwicket. If New Zealand win, this innings might sit alongside Clive Lloyd’s thumping century in the first World Cup final.
“Evening from Jaipur,” writes Samanda Black. “Just back from the factory and like - holy friggin moly! Mr Williamson must be one stubborn man. I thought my eyeballs were lying - 37 runs from 161 balls. Bloody hell!! I’m continually in awe of this kind of personal fight and determination to retain a wicket. The mental fortitude says plenty about the character of the person. Just extraordinary.”
As somebody who watches half-hour TV programmes in instalments, never mind films, the thing I admire most is his concentration. Well, that and his dignity. And his skill, and technique, and beard, and pretty much everything about him.
88th over: New Zealand 194-7 (Williamson 37, Southee 2) Tim Southeee edges Bumran just short of the slips, then flicks an attempted yorker into the leg side for two. I don’t think it would constitute a Big Call to say that, one way or another, Southee isn’t going to be around too long.
87th over: New Zealand 192-7 (Williamson 37, Southee 0) In fact that was the last ball of the over. New Zealand trail by 25 runs.
WICKET! New Zealand 192-7 (Jamieson c Bumrah b Jamieson 21)
So much for 1970s cricket: in Shami’s latest over we’ve had a four, a six and a wicket. Williamson heaved a short ball for four; then Jamieson swiped a mighty straight six - the first of the match - and top-edged a pull to Bumrah at long leg. That was areally useful cameo from Jamieson, who decided it was time to push things forward. In a slow- and low-scoring game, 21 from 16 balls constitutes a job well done.
86th over: New Zealand 181-6 (Williamson 32, Jamieson 15) Thanks Adam, hello everyone. A run rate from the 1970s was not what we had in mind for the inaugural World Test Championship final, but it’s been high-class stuff nonetheless. Kane Williamson’s innings is now the longest of the match. Never mind the runs, feel the balls: 159 and counting in fiendishly difficult conditions.
85th over: New Zealand 179-6 (Williamson 32, Jamieson 13) Before the appeal, more of that purposeful scoring, Williamson this time finding a couple of twos behind square off Shami. They’re calculated risks, shuffling across his stumps to clip in that direction. After the second of those, the New Zealand captain shakes his arm, suggesting, as Athers picks up on telly, that he might be battling a bit with the elbow soreness that kept him out of the Edgbaston Test. Right, on that note, I’ll pass you over to Rob Smyth with drinks on the field. What an enthralling few hours of cricket. Enjoy the rest!
NOT OUT! Umpire’s call on impact and where it hit off stump. Williamson has been saved by the on-field call. So, so close.
IS WILLIAMSON LBW? Richard Illingworth says no, Shami and Kohli see it a different way. Upstairs we go! (Looked a good shout to me...)
84th over: New Zealand 175-6 (Williamson 28, Jamieson 13) Jamieson is going after the bowling, skewing a couple through midwicket, two more through cover then tries to pop Ishant on the moon! He doesn’t make contact, but it’s easy to see that they have made the decision that, this close to parity, it is worth them having a pop at quick runs. Two more come through cover, through the air but safe, then another couple - the fourth two of the over - down the ground after opening up legside to slog. Make that five! He’s hacked the last ball across the line to midwicket. Ten from off it and the deficit is down to 42. Pretty it ain’t, but effective and intelligent it is.
83rd over: New Zealand 165-6 (Williamson 28, Jamieson 3) This will be no procession for India - Jamieson is a serious player at No8. And we see that with the stroke that gets him off the mark, a lovely drive on the up through the covers for three. Nevertheless, an important and successful over for India. Shami continues to holds the key here.
And it’s official: this game will be going to a sixth day.
WICKET! de Grandhomme lbw b Shami 13 (New Zealand 162-6)
Shami again! Of course it is! First ball of a new over, hits the seam with the off-cutter, jagging back at de Gramdhomme’s pads - an easy decision and no review. It’s such a good option after sending down a booming outswinger to start his previous over at the same batsman.
82nd over: New Zealand 162-5 (Williamson 28, de Grandhomme 13) de Grandhomme pulls the first ball behind square, a shot that would be worth two to any fielder other than Jadeja, who completes a brilliant collect-and-throw, straight over the bails. Not a particularly probing set, the captain handling it without a bother. The best ball is the one to finish, left alone after he first gets a big stride in.
81st over: New Zealand 161-5 (Williamson 28, de Grandhomme 12) Mohammed Shami, welcome back to the bowling crease. The best of India’s quicks so far and he’s straight back into the act, beating de Grandhomme with a big outswinger to start with the second new ball. Runs follow though, first from Williamson’s thigh pad with one that doesn’t hoop, down to the fine leg rope, and now with a short/wide one, which Williamson’s climbs into over extra cover. Very handy runs, the deficit now down to 56. Over to you, Ishant.
80th over: New Zealand 152-5 (Williamson 24, de Grandhomme 11) Jadeja once again so de Grandhomme considers giving it big - you can see it in his eyes - but thinks better of it, taking a single off an inside edge instead. Williamson then does as Williamson must, getting in behind the spin. And here’s the second new ball!
79th over: New Zealand 151-5 (Williamson 24, de Grandhomme 10) Bumrah’s final over with the old ball, now directing Williamson’s stumps as his primary line of attack. Sure enough, he’s safe and steady in defence, his 24 runs coming from 135 deliveries. Maiden.
78th over: New Zealand 151-5 (Williamson 24, de Grandhomme 10) Action around the bat when Williamson misses his cut, the first ball we’ve seen from Jadeja that’s jumped a bit more. He’s through the set in 75 seconds, which isn’t a bad move at this stage of proceedings given India only got 23 in before lunch. It’s all good and well to talk about getting 91 overs in today and 98 tomorrow but they’ll get nowhere near that based on the over rates we’ve seen across every Test Match in England (men’s and women’s) this summer so far.
77th over: New Zealand 149-5 (Williamson 23, de Grandhomme 9) Bumrah charging in at this stage suggests it’ll be Shami and Ishant with the second new ball in a matter of overs. He’s pushed back to that harder length since lunch, keeping Williamson playing from the crease. A couple of runs are on offer when he’s a fraction wide, the New Zealand captain easing him through gully off the back foot - his favourite shot in white-ball cricket, also useful against the red ball.
Alan Tuffrey writes in to say nice things about the OBO - thank you, always a pleasure. Of course, you can drop me a line (or Rob, when he takes over) at any stage through the afternoon.
76th over: New Zealand 147-5 (Williamson 21, de Grandhomme 9) The match-up stats who that de Grandhomme has struggled against Jadeja in the past, reinforcing why Kohli has made this call. Nevertheless, after looking to attack early, he’s happy enough playing out a maiden. The second new ball is four overs away.
75th over: New Zealand 147-5 (Williamson 21, de Grandhomme 9) de Grandhomme wants a piece of Bumrah, going across the line again, lifting high to long-on, but, for understandable reasons, there’s no man out there. Williamson plays the rest in more sedate fashion.
74th over: New Zealand 144-5 (Williamson 21, de Grandhomme 6) Jadeja not Shami? Who am I to second-guess Kohli after the morning session he’s enjoyed, I suppose. Craig McMillan likes it though, noting that de Grandhomme “can’t help himself” when it comes to playing spin. But three singles and a front-foot no ball... rare respite.
73rd over: New Zealand 139-5 (Williamson 19, de Grandhomme 4) The intent we didn’t identify with New Zealand earlier? Well, de Grandhomme hammers Bumrah through cover from the first ball of the session - save your legs. And two balls later, he tried to pop him over midwicket, saved by an inside edge instead. Fun!
The players are back on the field. Bumrah to de Grandhomme with New Zealand 82 runs behind and India on fire. Buckle up. PLAY!
A wonderful read before we return. I had the great pleasure of being part of the TV commentary team for Shafali Verma’s stunning Test debut at Bristol last week - a performance that’ll live long in the memory. What a star. Tanya Aldred wrote about her for The Spin.
“At the risk of turning a fascinating match between two great sides into a rumination on England,” says Scott McGibbon - okay, I’ll allow it, “does the difficultly in scoring here, along with sudden collapses and a need for careful batting, put recent English performances into perspective? We’re used to bemoaning losing quick wickets and low scores - is that just what it means to play cricket in England at the moment, since thats what these two sides are experiencing?”
To an extent, this is what the numbers tell us. There’s a new book out called Hitting Against the Spin, which Jonathan Liew has written about over the last couple of days, which runs through the numerical disadvantage for Test batsmen in England. In saying that, it feels like England’s problems are a bit deeper - more to do with survival on country pitches, and how that doesn’t quite translate.
LUNCH: New Zealand 135-5
72nd over: New Zealand 135-5 (Williamson 19, de Grandhomme 0) Ishant to send down the final over of the session, in at Williamson. Leaving, defending, defending, edging! Albeit with pillows for hands, landing well short of Rohit at second slip. He’s through it. Lunch. What a session that was, New Zealand adding just 34 runs with India claiming three wickets in the second hour. The Blackcaps still trail by 82, with India now a serious chance of running through them and opening up this final. They could not have bowled much better, Shami especially, in perfect sync with the captain Kohli, who has the midas touch with his changes. I’m going to grab something to eat, I suggest you do likewise, but don’t go too far - this is about as good as Test cricket comes. Back with you shortly. Lunch reading:
71st over: New Zealand 135-5 (Williamson 19, de Grandhomme 0) After getting through that torrid first hour, New Zealand have lost 3/18 in the second. And once again, credit to Kohli, for the third time making a change and working straight away. And there’s still time before lunch, de Grandhomme having to face the music. He gets through it. Wicket maiden. Mohammed Shami, what a bowler.
WICKET! Watling b Shami 1 (New Zealand 135-5)
Bowled him! Perfection from Shami! Starts middle, hits the top of middle and off. Stunning cricket from an outstanding bowler.
70th over: New Zealand 135-4 (Williamson 19, Watling 1) BJ Watling, playing his 75th and final Test Match. And he’s off the mark first ball, taking Ishant off his thigh pad for one - good batting. Williamson sees off the rest of the successful over. Once again, fine captaincy from Kohli to make the right change at the right time.
WICKET! Nicholls c Rohit b Ishant 7 (New Zealand 134-4)
That’s why Ishant is in this team! To the left-hander, angling in from round the wicket - Nicholls had to play - then shaping away beautifully, the edge found. A top take from Rohit too, backing himself to jump across from second slip. They sure earned that.
69th over: New Zealand 134-3 (Williamson 19, Nicholls 7) Bumrah is pulled up for an overstep, which, in turn, shows that Williamson is about a foot out of his crease when the ball is released. Same old, same old. He sure uses that seventh delivery well, putting him away through midwicket with a lovely clip. That’s his first boundary of the session, would you believe, with 14 minutes until lunch.
“This has got to be an elaborate play on the parallel between test cricket and existentialism,” writes Siddharth Singh. “Probably no meaning to either this match or life either, but if you look beyond that it’s pretty riveting stuff with immaculate beauty in both.”
With this in mind, might treat myself to a quick meditation at lunch.
68th over: New Zealand 128-3 (Williamson 15, Nicholls 6) Back to back maidens, Shami to Williamson playing out just as you might expect with the Black Caps stud playing the moving ball with care.
Fair criticism - there hasn’t been loads of what you would describe as purposeful batting or running. I suppose their entire objective against Shami and co has been survival, with a view to doing everything they can to bat once. But still, this is made a lot easier when ticking the board over and putting pressure on with the bat.
67th over: New Zealand 128-3 (Williamson 15, Nicholls 6) Bumrah to Nicholls now, finding his inside edge to begin then beating it - half a shout from leg before, but going over. They’re up again later in the over from a similar delivery - he’s a real handful now, the big quick.
66th over: New Zealand 128-3 (Williamson 15, Nicholls 6) Shami thinks he has found Nicholls’ glove with the short ball but Michael Gough doesn’t agree and nor does his captain - play on. And play on Nicholls does, taking on a powerful cut next ball, over backward point and out to the rope. From there, he handles the rest well.
65th over: New Zealand 123-3 (Williamson 15, Nicholls 1) Can Bumrah get into the book too? Unusually for him, he’s blown a bit hot and cold across this innings. He brings the heat to begin here, Williamson leaving on instinct that it would trend away after pitching on off-stump, a ball so many would edge. Kohli is working the crowd - you love to see it - and it brings an error from the New Zealand captain, wafting at a wider offering for the first time today, lucky to miss it. A bumper to finish, which ensures that Shami will get another go at the new man Nicholls to start his next set.
64th over: New Zealand 123-3 (Williamson 15, Nicholls 1) And what a response from Kohli and his team! The stuff captain’s dream of there, swinging a bowler around to have a go at the other end and getting a key breakthrough right away. Taylor did look to drive Shami when he was fuller and wanted to assert himself, but it wasn’t quite there - maybe a little bit more bounce than he thought. Henry Nicholls is the new man, with Shami going round the wicket to him right away, off the mark first ball from the outside part of his bat, out past point. Back to Williamson now, the third batsman that Shami has bowled at in three balls, and he’s tucking carefully for one. To Nicholls once more and it has hoooooped down the legside, so far that Pant had no chance behind the stumps, four byes. It’s all happening at Southampton and there are still two balls to come in this successful over. Wait says to left-hander, solid contact, better. And a very close leave to finish - well handled. Fantastic over.
WICKET! Taylor c Gill b Shami 11 (New Zealand 117-3)
Shami is swung around and gets Taylor first ball! Driving on the up, he’s taken at cover - a brilliant snaffle from Gill. Wonderful cricket.
63rd over: New Zealand 117-2 (Williamson 14, Taylor 11) After drinks, back to Bumrah after Shami’s short, sharp and fine spell. Four catchers behing the wicket but they aren’t called upon here, with Williamson able to leave a couple of times and defending the rest, off both the back and front foot. He’s building in confidence.
62nd over: New Zealand 117-2 (Williamson 14, Taylor 11) Back to back maidens to drinks, Ishant keeping Taylor in careful defence. What an hour that was. 16 runs but no wickets - compelling stuff.
“The highest standards of bowling and batting we’ll normally see,” says Vic Laner. “Many teams, England included, could be seven wickets down by now.”
Not wrong. The perfect New Zealand batsmen for the task.
61st over: New Zealand 117-2 (Williamson 14, Taylor 11) New Zealand trail by exactly 100 as Shami prepares to go again. He’s moving it both ways here, the inswinger just off target to start, then out that shapes away next - left alone by Williamson. The pattern continues. What a contest this is; another maiden. Between overs, we see India’s coach, Ravi Shastri, keeping his hands warm. Summer!
Yep, magnificent cricket so far today. Every ball matters.
60th over: New Zealand 117-2 (Williamson 14, Taylor 11) Williamson has one run from his last 41 balls, the TV tells me, with New Zealand adding just 11 in the first 52 minutes of play today as Ishant starts his fresh over to the skipper. Make that 12, albeit off the inside egde, out the square leg. Nearly a chance down the legside! That’s kissed Taylor’s glove, Pant going everything he can to his left, but he can’t quite reach it. Four runs. Ohhh, and a beauty to follow - Taylor missing a drive, going between bat and pad then over his stumps.
“Shami-in-England must be the spirit animal of 2021,” says Abhijato Sensarma. Tell me about it. I couldn’t get enough of him in 2018 and I’m sure this’ll be the summer where his luck turns and he goes big.
I’m sure they do, even if they are working off fairly similar data.
59th over: New Zealand 112-2 (Williamson 13, Taylor 7) Shami is in the game every ball here, bringing Taylor forward then dragging it back just a tad - gosh, that’s a close leave, right over middle stump. He’s able to shoulder arms a couple of times to finish - sweet relief.
58th over: New Zealand 112-2 (Williamson 13, Taylor 7) That inswing for Ishant is meant to be a problem for New Zealand’s left-handers but it is making life difficult for the two right-handers here, hitting Taylor in the thigh then Williamson on the box. To finish, short leg is in the game, but that’s hit the skipper’s thigh pad. Pleased to see a catcher in there, can’t work out why it’s out of fashion for quicks.
57th over: New Zealand 111-2 (Williamson 13, Taylor 7) Shami is on and swinging it a mile at Taylor to begin, nearly reaching first slip. Blimey. Ohhh, and he beats the right-hander with a good’un next up; that’s done plenty. Third ball, a touch fuller, driven for four through cover - the first boundary of the day. “Don’t worry about that,” advises Naser. “That’s good. Right there.” Bounce next up, hitting Taylor on the gloves. Wonderful bowling. Williamson’s turn with two balls to come. Good in defence first up. Ooh, but another fine delivery to finish, going the other way back at Williamson, beating his inside edge and hitting him on the pad, caught on the crease. An appeal... turned down. Going over. No review. Phew!
56th over: New Zealand 106-2 (Williamson 13, Taylor 2) Bumrah’s up to 90mph now but, as they note on TV, he’s not brought Williamson forward on many occasions so far this morning. When he does, the New Zealand skipper defends immaculately, contact made with the ball right under his eyes. Then a purposeful leave to finish.
55th over: New Zealand 106-2 (Williamson 13, Taylor 2) Williamson gets his first run of the day to retain the strike, turning Ishant around the corner. There’s still healthy movement towards the right-hander, beating the inside edge once and hitting him on the thigh pad with another. Earlier in the set, Taylor also earned a single into the legside - he’s settling. Six overs in the first half an hour for five runs.
“The India team could go to all the county grounds and do a charity or schools event or two at each one or in each city,” suggests Andrew Benton. “They’d have plenty of time to look around the town/city too.” A proper busman’s - I don’t mind that. Some of the best nights I’ve had during Ashes summers have been at the county fixtures.
54th over: New Zealand 104-2 (Williamson 12, Taylor 1) Taylor’s off the mark, pushing assertively but softly into the off-side, through for an easy single to cover. Bumrah bounces Williamson straight away, just as Ishant did, but he’s happy enough ducking this time before leaving the next couple outside the off-stump. Less lateral movement from Bumrah’s end so far this morning. As Athers notes, there’s no rush for New Zealand, who have a clear path to victory by getting a healthy lead then piling the pressure on India on day six.
53rd over: New Zealand 103-2 (Williamson 12, Taylor 0) An enthusiastic lbw appeal from Ishant, plenty of swing again at Taylor, but Virat doesn’t send it upstairs. Good decision - that’s missing a second set. But I can see why the bowler is excited, with Taylor shuffling across just a tad. It spits away for a leg bye, giving the big quick a look at Williamson for the first time today, bouncing him to begin - he wanted to hook until pulling out at the crucial moment.
Iain McKane is offering up his place to Virat for a holiday, by the sounds of this note. “I can recommend the unexpected delights of the Northumberland coast, including Alnmouth, where I just happen to co-own an early-18th century stone cottage, available for holidays. Right by the mile-long stretch of beach, it’ll be particularly good for a player with a young family.”
52nd over: New Zealand 102-2 (Williamson 12, Taylor 0) This really is high-quality cricket, Bumrah testing Williamson on both edges at close to 90mph, the New Zealand captain equal to it. Worth the wait.
51st over: New Zealand 102-2 (Williamson 12, Taylor 0) Ishant to begin down the other end and he’s getting a lot of swing at Taylor, albeit down the legside. As Athers notes on telly, he will certainly attack the pads to begin, especially after seeing the way he fell at Lord’s on the opening day of New Zealand’s series against England. Down leg again with his second ball too - a tad frustrating, but you can see what he’s trying to do. He finds his radar from there, tailing in late, the 37-year-old handling it well. Then one to straighten the other way to finish, defended from the middle of the bat. Great stuff.
50th over: New Zealand 102-2 (Williamson 12, Taylor 0) Bumrah back of a length to begin, Williamson leaving and defending. Ohh, and with the fourth ball he’s fuller and the New Zealand skipper is beaten outside the off-stump; a ball he has to play at given the angle Bumrah creates from over the wicket. Super stuff. Can he back it up? He can, a fraction straighter, kept out well off the front foot. Speaking of front feet, Bumrah’s was over the line - as detected by the third umpire - so that’s the first run of the day. A genuine edge to finish, but played with such soft hands, it lands in front of second slip. That’s what we’ve been craving: high-quality Test cricket.
“Morning Adam.” And to you, Luke Richardson. “The Kohlis should at least consider the Suffolk coast. Pint of Adnams in Southwold (although not sure if that’s Virat’s thing, but Mike Selvey will vouch for it), and catch of the day from one of the huts along the harbour; lovely sandy beach at Lowestoft; crab fishing off the bridge at Walberswick; the great bird reserve at Minsmere or even a 7th century burial horde at Sutton Hoo; boating on the Broads. It’s become a favourite trip each summer with our now 6 and 9 year olds, somewhat against the spin given how much my brothers and I moaned when our parents offered any of the above on a Sunday afternoon growing up there in the mid-80s. Honestly, we didn’t know we were born.”
Wow. Forget Virat, you’ve convinced me to get over there. Lovely.
The players are on the field! As I live and breathe. Bumrah has the ball in his hand. He was in the middle of a superb spell when play stopped due to bad light, oh, 40-odd hours ago. New Zealand are 101 behind, Williamson (12) on strike with Taylor (0) down the other end. At last, Michael Gough calls the players to attention... PLAY!
“Hi Adam.” Hello, Richard Hirst. “It may not be much consolation, but there would have been as little play in SW France over the past few days as in Southampton. Giant storm on Thursday evening would have left the outfield soaked, and unsettled weather since then would have had the players more off than on. So England can’t be blamed (entirely) for its weather. Next week is going to be lovely, so maybe the Indians could come here for a break.”
Sounds nice. However, nipping over to France might be beyond them with quarantine conditions as they are. Or maybe not, who really knows what is and isn’t permitted these days?
Confirmation from Ali Martin (via the ICC): we’ve lost seven overs. That leaves 91 on this fifth and penultimate day. That makes it:
- 1.30pm - Lunch
- 4.10pm - Tea
- 6.30pm - Stumps (plus the extra 30 minutes)
“Definitely coastal Northumbria somewhere,” suggests Tanya Wintringham for the Indian team holiday. “Stunning beaches, great castles, Lindisfarne is magic, good seafood (if they like that kind of food, I like it all except for kippers) and the nearest cricket test ground is miles away at Chester-Le-Street. Brilliant Possibly also quite cold, but it appears to be ghastly everywhere lately. You can tell we’re in the middle of reorganising our planned UK trip for the second time, which had ten days up in the North East on the itinerary. Harumph.”
That sounds glorious. I’ve earmarked a few days between Lord’s and Headingley Tests to get north. Spain can wait. Something like that.
11:30am start time!
“Ground staff coming on to start removing the covers,” reports Ali Martin. Giddy up.
Let’s have a wander. New Zealand fly out in two days, so their tour is over. Not so the Indian group, who are staying in the UK for a few quiet weeks ahead of their five-Test series against England, beginning on 4 August at Trent Bridge. Time for a holiday! Llandudno? Barry? Pembrokeshire? Is there a reason why I can only think of Welsh spots? Anyway, have at it: where should Virat and Anushka book themselves in at an Airbnb for a long weekend?
The broadcast did my head in there. “11am start!” declared Nasser... before Kohli and Rahane walked to the middle with the pads on. Of course, the ICC have thrown to highlights from day three.
Meanwhile, here’s how it looks as of a couple of minutes ago.
“Good morning from India!” A good morning to you, Abhijato Sensarma. “It’s not the despair, Adam, I can live with despair. But it’s the hope - the hope of Boult smashing Bumrah over the latter’s head in the final over of the Test Championship - that’s been killing me. On the OBO yesterday, Tim de Lisle reckoned that there isn’t going to be a seventh day added to the match in case we fail to get a result because of the weather. There’s a limit to bureaucratic pyrotechnics even for the ICC, I suppose. But let’s hypothesise some more. In case we are on the verge of a grandstand finish and the umpires take them off for bad light or something on the final evening - that’s going to kill the WTC, right? Not on paper, but in spirit. I hope we have a rained off encounter rather than anything as sordid as that.”
I’m afraid to say there is no way a seventh day will be added - not after the playing conditions have been set in relation to the sixth, as Ali Martin ran through earlier this morning. But I do think the next time around, there’s a good chance it’ll be a timeless Test.
“The worst kind of rain,” Ali Martin adds. “The kind they might not come off for, but won’t come on for either.” Urrrrgggghhhh.
“The good news is we don’t lose any overs until 11am,” confirms Mike Atherton as the pictures confirm that rain is still falling. And he comes with an encouraging stat. Over the last five years, 31 of 36 Tests in England have ended in a result with 22 of those in fewer than the 337 overs that are set to be played in this Test, if they get on for 98 today and tomorrow. At this point, I refer you to my preamble.
And here’s our Ali Martin, who has dropped me a line from the press box. “We’ve got both patches of blue sky and also a light splash of rain, with the latter making me think this Test match is utterly cursed. The radar shows a band of rain coming in from the east that could take a chunk out of this morning session now. Ye gods!” Sake!
Devon Conway is now chatting with Athers. And playing a nice, straight bat, as you would expect. “It’s been a good ride so far and I’m grateful for how it has gone and can’t wait what is to come.”
You’ll be able to look at Conway’s gloves from his remarkable double ton on Test debut in the MCC Museum when it re-opens.
Andy Flower has been elevated to the ICC Hall of Fame. A package celebrating his career is going to air now. I had the pleasure of spending some time with him in 2019 as part of The Greatest Season That Was podcast in our 1999 World Cup retrospective. We strayed from that topic towards the end, talking about his passion for Zimbabwe, sharing the sorrow that drove him from his homeland.
All the covers are on now... we can see them over Isa’s shoulder - bowlers’ run-ups, the works. So, it’ll definitely be a delayed start.
Ajinkya Rahane is talking to Athers. He says he spent the rain days with his family, who are with him for the tour. “I don’t like to think too much after a practice session. I tend to give myself ten minutes to think about it and then I completely switch off, read some books or spend time with my family; my daughter is here, so I spend time with her.” On a result from here? “The first session will be crucial for us, if we can get the wickets of Williamson and Taylor. But need to be patient, stay in present and take it session by session. When you get too far ahead of yourself in England funny things can happen.”
Isa Guha reports that the covers are on for “precautionary reasons”, with 20 minutes until the scheduled resumption. Ian Bishop took a look at the pitch earlier and can still see a bit of green grass, looking specifically at where there was a bit of variable bounce just short of a length all the way back on Sunday afternoon. “It is a pitch that offers something for all personalities. A good surface.”
The TV broadcast has started. “The forecast is much better,” Isa Guha confirms off the top. That’s good enough for me.
“I’ve just seen your preamble!” exclaims Tanya Wintringham from New Zealand. “I haven’t recovered from my trauma from 2019 yet. I couldn’t cope with that level of stress again!”
No boundary countback this time, though - everyone wins.
Ohh an update: I’m sorry to say, according to my Rob Johnston, my accomplished press box colleague... “It’s raining FFS”
Time for the weather, with our man at the ground, Ali Martin.
“Morning from Southampton, where it’s overcast, cool but also bright with the sun occasionally popping out. This Test has been a lottery for the poor ticket-holders but the day five crew *should* get 98 overs (less any change of innings, sluggish rates etc). No official word on the start time - the outfield will need to be much improved from yesterday’s quagmire - but here are some details of the reserve day from ICC:
- It will happen if the match hasn’t been completed by the close of play.
- It is to do with making up the overs we’ve lost, not about trying to force a result.
- The decision will be taken by the umpires 60 minutes before the scheduled close of play on day five.
- Tickets have now gone on sale to fans who had tickets for days 1 & 4 (washed out days), which will open up today to fans who missed out in the ballot.”
In keeping with the spirit of my preamble, I’m interpreting all of this as positive news. Here’s Ali’s piece from yesterday, by the way.
Let’s assume we start on time. Or better still, that somehow we get 98 overs in both today and tomorrow, with extra time and all the rest. That’s 196 overs to find a way to the finish line, which is not inconsiderable in conditions are giving plenty to the bowlers, on a pitch that’s been under covers for the better part of of 36 overs.
If New Zealand go at about three an over, they’ll crack parity just after lunch. For the sake of our sketch, let’s have them bowled out at that point too. Buoyed by their comeback with the ball, India crack on a fraction quicker again, reaching 200/5 by stumps tonight.
New Zealand come out steaming tomorrow morning, claiming 5/50 in a gripping first 90 minutes of play. They’re left 250 to win in 70 overs. They go for it. Consistent wickets fall but they aren’t going to give up the chase. A Colin de Grandhomme run-a-ball 50, alongside the bowlers, gets them to the brink. Two overs to go, 13 needed.
Southee and Bould are the New Zealanders, the two of them with more sixes than any No10 or No11 to play in the history of Test cricket. Southee can’t make contact until the final delivery of the penultimate over - it’s out of the Rose Bowl! Seven to win, Bumrah v Boult. It’s an interpretative dance, backing away, every ball swinging and missing, somehow each missing the woodwork.
It’s the second last ball of the World Test Championship Final and BOOM, he CLOUTS it over cow corner! Six! Scores level! The weight of the world on Bumrah’s shoulders, charging in from the Hotel End. He delivers, full, reverse swing, Boult falls over, he’s bowled! It’s a tie! The third tie in the history of Test cricket! A staggering climax. Kohli and Williamson will hold the mace aloft together.
Or, we’re off for bad light at 5pm later today and it rains tomorrow. Kohli and Williamson still hold the mace aloft together. Either way, stick with me to see if the reality can match fiction. G’morning.