UNITED KINGDOM. Southampton: The World Test Championship Final seems to be heading for a tight finish after both India and New Zealand battled hard on the fifth day of the rain-hit showpiece match here on Tuesday. India pacer Mohammed Shami sizzled with a four-wicket haul but could not stop New Zealand from taking a crucial 32-run lead as the Blackcaps scored 249 runs after resuming at 101 for two. India, who scored 217 runs in their first innings, then ended the fifth day at 64 for two with a 32-run lead in their pocket.
Rohit Sharma (30) was playing watchfully until he misread a straighter one from Tim Southee. He was shouldering arms to a ball that hooped back in and trapped him LBW towards the end of the day’s play. Southee had earlier dismissed Shubhman Gill (8). Ever-reliable Cheteshwar Pujara (12) and skipper Virat Kohli (8) were at the crease at stumps. With three full sessions to play and a favorable forecast announced for the reserve day on Wednesday, the sixth day will come with the possibility of a draw as well as a result.
After 14 circumspect overs, Shami made the breakthrough by drawing Taylor into a mistimed shot that was brilliantly caught by Shubhman gill in the covers. After Henry Nicholls (7) edged an Ishant Sharma delivery into the slips it was Shami again who struck, cleaning up BJ Watling (1) with a full delivery that straightened a touch and castled the Kiwi keeper’s stumps.
That dismissal could prove to be Watling’s final one in Test cricket, as he is set to retire from Tests after this match. And his departure ensured that the morning was firmly India’s, with New Zealand adding just 32 runs in the session, and Williamson becalmed on 19 from 112 deliveries. Shami broke the little partnership when he trapped Colin de Grandhomme in front for 13. It all looked that India would get a first-innings lead. But new batsman Kyle Jamieson launched a counterattack. He drove Shami for a six and a four. His run-a-ball innings came to an end when trying to hook a bouncer from Shami and was caught by Bumrah on the fine-leg boundary for 21.
Williamson (49) and Tim Southee (30) steered New Zealand into a first-innings lead, and as long as the New Zealand skipper was at the crease it seemed likely that his side would take control of the Test. But Sharma took the crucial wicket as he lured the Kiwi captain into a rare rash shot, playing away from his body on the back foot and cutting the ball straight to Virat Kohli at a wide third slip. Southee’s two sixes took his career tally to 75 sixes in Test cricket, 15th in the all-time standings, and just three behind legendary boundary-hitter MS Dhoni from 33 fewer innings.
A full 98 overs are available on the Reserve Day (sixth day) on Wednesday, with the World Test Championship Mace still very much on the line.
Brief score – India: First innings – 217 All Out
Second innings – 64 for 2
New Zealand: First innings – 249 All Out