India’s spinners once again bared their fangs, sealing a record 372-run victory against New Zealand in the second and final Test at the Wankhede Stadium on Monday to secure a 14th consecutive series triumph at home. It was the biggest margin of victory by runs for India in a home match, eclipsing their 337-run win against South Africa in a Delhi Test in 2015. The 1-0 victory meant India have not lost a home series since their 2-1 defeat by England in 2012 and it also helped Virat Kohli’s side reclaim the top spot in the Test rankings, pushing New Zealand to second.
With the series victory, the hosts also avenged their loss to New Zealand in the final of the inaugural World Test Championship in Southampton in June. India’s spinners wasted little time in removing New Zealand’s remaining batters on Monday, sealing the victory in a little over three days on the spin-friendly track at the sun-bathed ground overlooking the Arabian Sea. “I know this result looks a bit one-sided but right through the series we’ve been made to work hard,” said Rahul Dravid, the side’s newly-appointed head coach.
“There have been phases of the game where we’ve been behind and had to fight back. Credit to the team for pulling themselves out of some difficult positions,” the former India captain and batting great added. Spin-bowling all-rounder Jayant Yadav did most of the damage on the fourth morning, picking up 4-49 — his career-best figures — to cut through New Zealand’s middle and lower order. With just a few hundred fans present in the stands to cheer the team on, Ravichandran Ashwin took the final wicket to finish with 4-34 as their opponents were all out for 167 in their second innings, chasing an improbable 540 for victory.
The wily off-spinner, the world’s leading wicket-taker this year with 52, took eight in Mumbai and was adjudged the player of the series for his tally of 14 wickets from two matches. The victory will taste sweeter for India after they rested a number of established regulars while also missing a spate of players due to injuries. The Wellington all-rounder played a significant part in history as Ajaz Patel became the third man in test cricket to take 10 wickets in one inning, completing the last two dismissals with a safe pair of hands.
The final catch, in particular, will live long in Ravindra’s memory – a sliced slog to mid-on from the bat of Mohammed Siraj, the ball hung high in the Mumbai sky while the Black Caps prepared to swarm Patel in celebration. Most of the Black Caps, anyway. Ravindra was busy trying not to ruin a perfectly good pair of pants. “When the ball was up in the air I could see my teammates all celebrating and I was like, ‘Oh my god, pressure is on here,” the 22-year-old said. “It was probably the most nervous I’ve ever been under a high ball. “It was spinning so much, I was crapping my pants, but I was lucky enough to hold on.”
“To play Test cricket you need passion and intent,” Kohli told reporters. “Indian cricket is in safe hands when you have so many people who have that. People are hungry to play Tests well. It’s nice to see youngsters want to feel what it is to play Tests.” New Zealand’s dogged batters had denied India victory in the first Test after their last pair hung on for 52 balls in a thrilling final session but they were unable to show the same kind of resistance on Monday. New Zealand left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel’s 10 wickets in the first innings and a match-haul of 14 was one for the record books but their batting skills on a spin-friendly track were found wanting.