India celebrated its 500th Test in style on Monday when they overcame New Zealand’s final dogged resistance to win the series opener by 197 runs and go 1-0 up in the three-match series.
New Zealand were always going to do well to manage anything more than delaying the Indian celebrations when they resumed on 93 for four in their pursuit of an improbable 434-run victory target on a track offering generous spin and bounce.
To their credit, they kept the home bowlers at bay for 50 overs, a little more than one session, on a turning day-five track before collapsing for 236 to give the hosts a comprehensive victory in the milestone Test.
Ravichandran Ashwin claimed 6-132 to complete his 10-wicket match haul and prove why he is considered India’s premier spinner. The offspinner added the scalps of Mitchell Santner (71), Ish Sodhi (17) and Neil Wagner (0) to add to the three wickets he took on Sunday, when he became the second fastest man to take 200 Test wickets . Ashwin managed the feat in 37 matches, one more than Australia’s Clarrie Grimmett.
When the final day’s play began under an overcast sky, overnight batsmen Ronchi (80) and Santner (71) continued their resistance against the in-form Indian spinners at Kanpur’s Green Park Stadium.
Skipper Virat Kohli predictably began with spin from both ends but the batsmen mixed caution with aggression to defy their hosts for 20 overs.
Left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja finally made the breakthrough when he induced Ronchi into an ill-timed slog against the turn and Ravichandran Ashwin pouched the skier at point.
The dismissal pretty much summed up a Test in which India’s spin duo, who shared 16 of the 20 Kiwi wickets between them, combined to wreck New Zealand’s hopes of a result.
It was a tame end to Ronchi’s 102-run partnership with Santner, a defiant battle spread over 36 overs that proved the local spinners were not unplayable.
Ronchi hit nine boundaries and a six before his rush of blood to the head ended his innings on 80.
In a match dominated by the spinners, Mohammed Shami also displayed his reverse swing mastery and got one to jag back into BJ Watling’s pad before he uprooted Mark Craig’s middle stump with another swinging delivery.
Craig will now return home to recover from a side strain. He was replaced in the squad by Jeetan Patel .
Santner completed his fifty but was then served a nearly unplayable ball from Ashwin, which pitched way outside the leg-stump, turned and bounced viciously to kiss the shoulder of the bat and nestled in Rohit Sharma’s waiting hands at silly point.
The off-spinner trapped Neil Wagner leg before to seal the victory.
Kolkata’s Eden Gardens hosts the second Test, another historic match as it will be India’s 250th at home, from Friday.