Kanpur, Sep 23 (IANS) Tom Latham and Kane Williamson struck half-centuries to take New Zealand to a comfortable position before heavy rain forced match officials to call off the final session’s play on the second day of the first cricket Test against India here on Friday.
Latham (56 batting) and Williamson (66 batting) were the two New Zealand batsmen holding fort in the middle at the Green Park Stadium with the visitors on 152/1 in their first innings in response to India’s first innings total of 318 runs.
The duo held the Indian bowlers at bay and steadied the visitors’ innings following the early departure of the dangerous Martin Guptill (21).
New Zealand now trail the hosts by 166 runs with nine wickets remaining.
Latham had hit five boundaries so far during his patient 137-ball stay in the middle while Williamson had managed to find the ropes seven times in his 115-ball knock.
Fast bowler Umesh Yadav (1/22) was the only Indian to bag a wicket, trapping Guptill leg before.
Rain played spoilsport just as the players were about to leave the field for tea with a steady drizzle forcing the groundsmen to bring the covers out.
Resumption of play was subsequently postponed for an indefinite period.
With the rain continuing to lash the ground more than an hour after the tea interval, the match officials eventually decided to call it a day.
The ongoing Test is the 500th for India and the hosts will be eager for a win in order to make the occasion even more special.
India, who made their debut as a Test cricket playing nation against England in 1932, are also be targeting the top spot in the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Test rankings by clinching the three-Test series.
A 1-0 or 2-1 win will take India to 111 points, similar to current top spot holder Pakistan but ahead of them on decimal points while a 2-0 win margin will see India surge ahead at 113 points.
A 3-0 win will move India to 115 points. New Zealand, which is currently on 95 points, will remain at the seventh position with any of these margins with the maximum drop to 91 points in case they lose all the three matches.
A 1-1 series draw will result in India dropping to the fourth position on 108 points and New Zealand rising to fifth on 97 points.
If New Zealand is able to beat India by 1-0 or 2-1, they will move to the fifth position at 100 points with India one slot ahead on fourth with 104 points. New Zealand can overtake India to take the fourth position only with an improbable 3-0 win.
Should India go to the top of the rankings, it would be the third time this year and fourth overall.
Earlier on Friday, with the pitch beginning to show signs of wear and tear, the Indian bowlers got a fair amount of turn and movement off the wicket.
But despite the challenging conditions, the New Zealand batsmen still managed to maintain a decent scoring rate.
Except for Yadav, the rest of the Indian bowlers — Mohammed Shami (0/26), Ravindra Jadeja (0/47), Ravichandran Ashwin (0/44) and Murali Vijay (0/5) — were unable to bag any wicket although there were quite a few close calls.
The visitors suffered their first blow in the 10th over with Guptill, who seemed to be in good form, beaten by an in-swinger from Yadav.
The ball moved very slightly after pitching around the off-stump before hitting Guptill’s pads plumb in front of the middle stump.
Guptill smashed three boundaries during his 31-ball knock.
Williamson then joined Latham in the middle and the duo ensured that the visitors lost no more wickets before lunch.
The duo continued to bat on steadily after lunch, finding the boundaries at regular intervals.
Ashwin bowled quite well, getting the ball to loop and dip in the air. He came close to bagging a wicket on a few occasions, most notably when Williamson was beaten by the vicious turn and the ball hit the back of his helmet. One of the helmet flaps came off and hit the stumps, but did not have enough force to disturb the bails.
Jadeja too beat the batsmen on several occasions and there were quite a few loud appeals for leg before.
The left-arm spinner will consider himself unlucky not to have got Latham’s wicket when the ball got the inside edge, hit the Kiwi’s boot and went to Lokesh Rahul at short leg.
Rahul managed to hold onto the ball after some initial fumble, but the third umpire ruled Latham not out as the ball had hit the grill of the fielder’s helmet.
During the morning session, the hosts were bowled out for 318 runs early on Day Two.
The Men in Blue scored 27 runs in seven overs to get past the 300-run mark in their historic 500th Test.
Resuming the day on 291/9, Ravindra Jadeja scored an unbeaten 42 from 44 balls with seven boundaries and a six, putting on an invaluable stand of 41 runs for the final wicket with Yadav, who survived 15 balls before gloving a short ball from pacer Wagner to New Zealand wicketkeeper Bradley-John Watling for nine runs.
For New Zealand, spinner Mitchell Santner (3/94) and fast bowler Trent Boult (3/67) claimed three wickets each, while Wagner (2/42) bagged a couple. Inderbir Singh Sodhi (1/50) and Mark Craig (1/59) got one wicket each.