India vs New Zealand: The rise of the two Patels, Mayank and Siraj's Mumbai heroics and other takeaways

India vs New Zealand: The rise of the two Patels, Mayank and Siraj's Mumbai heroics and other takeaways
© Provided by Firstpost India vs New Zealand: The rise of the two Patels, Mayank and Siraj’s Mumbai heroics and other takeaways

After fighting hard and salvaging a heroic draw in the Kanpur Test, New Zealand were given yet another reminder as to how tough it is to face India in their own backyard with the second Test ending in a little over three days.

The Kanpur game saw the Black Caps trigger batting collapses thanks to some superb spells from their seamers, their batters dominating a couple of sessions. And when things got tough on the final day, their lower order came to the rescue to help keep the series alive. Going into the Mumbai Test, the Kiwis certainly would have backed themselves to beat the hosts and become the first team in nine years to win a Test series in India.

The likes of Mayank Agarwal, Axar Patel and Ravichandran Ashwin though, had other plans, as the Indians ended up outclassing the Kiwis across all departments to register a comprehensive 372-run victory, and win yet another Test series on home soil. This despite Ajaz Patel’s historic 10-wicket haul in the first innings, the lone bright spot in an otherwise gloomy outing.

Let us take a look at five takeaways from the bygone Test series:

The Year of Axar Patel

Axar Patel had always been knocking on the door as far as Test selection is concerned, and while he had racked up impressive performances for India in the white-ball formats, as well as in the IPL, he hadn’t quite been able to break into the Test side. That was until the game-changing home series against England earlier this year.

He collected 27 wickets in three Tests which ensured he would be an automatic pick for home Test assignments in the near future. And the way Axar has performed in the New Zealand Tests, collecting nine wickets from two Tests including a 5/62 in Kanpur, it’s as if he picked up from where he left off.

Additionally, what has made him a worthy contender to the spot that had so far been held by Ravindra Jadeja is his marked improvement as a batter, as was evident in his half-century in the first innings in Mumbai followed by a rapid-fire 41 not out in the second innings.

Ajaz Patel enters an exclusive club

Axar isn’t the only Patel who shone in the two-Test series. New Zealand’s Ajaz Patel, who also happens to bowl left-arm orthodox, was the only member of the bowling unit offering any resistance to the Indian batters after Virat Kohli opted to bat in the Mumbai Test. Through his hard work and persistence stretched across two days, Patel ended up becoming only the third bowler in the history of the game to collect all 10 wickets in a Test innings.

Ajaz, who had only 29 wickets to his credit from 10 matches in the three years he had been playing Test cricket, became an overnight star after achieving a feat that spin legend Muttiah Muralitharan had come within touching distance of on a couple of occasions, and had been achieved only twice in the 144 years of Test cricket before this game.

Shreyas in, Rahane out?

Ajinkya Rahane put himself under further pressure after yet another average outing with calls for his axing growing louder.

Rahane, who led India in the Kanpur Test in Kohli’s absence before getting ruled out of the Mumbai game due to an injury, certainly showed intent as he got off to a promising start in Kanpur, only to throw it away by getting clean bowled off Kyle Jamieson’s bowling. Barring a couple of half-centuries, Rahane hasn’t had much to highlight this year, with his last knock of impact being a ton in Melbourne.

And while he continues to have the backing of skipper Kohli, his chances of getting picked for the South Africa tour have certainly taken a beating, especially with the breakthrough debut of another Mumbaikar in Shreyas Iyer, who carried the Indian batting at Green Park with contributions of 105 and 65 that nearly won the game.

With Rahane’s stocks declining and Iyer competing directly with him for a spot in the middle order, the selectors and the team management would have to be extraordinarily lenient on the former to give him another shot in the next big assignment.

Mayank, Siraj moving up the pecking order

Though gifted with the kind of talent that makes for world-class cricketers, Mayank Agarwal and Mohammed Siraj have found themselves sitting along the sidelines than being at the centre of action more often than not, thanks to the sheer bench strength that Indian cricket currently enjoys.

However, with a number of seniors rested for this Test series, Mayank got the opportunity to open alongside Shubman Gill while Mohammed Siraj was picked for the Mumbai Test after Ishant Sharma was ruled out along with Rahane and Ravindra Jadeja.

Mayank would go on to stamp his class on the New Zealand attack, standing tall even as wickets fell in clusters at the other end as his knock of 150 gave India a solid foundation after they opted to bat. As if to highlight that the century and a half was not a one-off, he would go on to score 62 in the next essay.

Siraj, meanwhile, triggered the spectacular Kiwi batting collapse on the second day with a sensational new-ball spell, from bouncing dangerman Tom Latham out to get him caught while inducing a hook to hitting the top of off with a pearler that resulted in Ross Taylor’s dismissal for 1, leaving the Black Caps reeling at 17/3. The Black Caps never quite recovered from that early shock, and could barely adjust to the spinners after Siraj’s spell as they got bundled out for 62.

While a major boost to the careers of the two mentioned above, the performances have also created a problem of plenty for the selection panel ahead of the squad announcement for the South Africa tour.

Ashwin remains the undisputed boss

Ajaz’s 10-fer and Shreyas’s blistering debut aside, the series also witnessed Ravichandran Ashwin going past another iconic Indian off-spinner to become the third highest wicket-taker for his country in the five-day format.

Ashwin was once again at his dominant best with the ball, finishing second in the bowling charts with 14 wickets (including two four-fers) at an average of 11.36, the Black Caps having little answer to his guile that combined with his experience, makes for a lethal combination on these surfaces.

Ashwin’s dismissal of Will Young on Day 4 of the Kanpur Test saw him go past Harbhajan Singh’s Test tally of 417 wickets. The kind of form that the Tamil Nadu off-spinner is in at the moment, it should be a matter of time before he goes past Kapil Dev’s 434 wickets, though only time will tell if he can match Anil Kumble’s 619 wickets.

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