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New Zealand v India

Debutant Jamieson exposes India’s familiar frailties

by Aadya Sharma 3 minute read

On a testing, green Wellington surface, India’s batting wilted against debutant Kyle Jamieson and his unerring lengths, exposing the side’s familiar woes against the new ball in overcast conditions.

Kyle Jamieson wouldn’t even have made it to the XI, had New Zealand had their first-choice bowling attack at their disposal.

Long before Tim Southee bowled the first ball of the Test to Prithvi Shaw, it was known that the series would be a contest between India’s batting and New Zealand’s seam-dominated bowling. There were Trent Boult and Southee, and the magic they create with the new ball. There was Neil Wagner and his back-of-a-length, nagging bumpers. The fiery Lockie Ferguson, next in line, was laid low by injury, but there was Matt Henry, India’s tormentor in the World Cup semi-final, waiting in the wings. They seemed to be amply stocked.

Yet, 55 overs into the first Test, it was the little-known Kyle Jamieson who had made the day’s headlines, showing characteristics of each of the above bowlers and hitting brilliant lengths, ball after ball.

On the surface where he took his maiden first-class wicket over four years ago, Jamieson took three of the five Indian wickets to fall, ending the rain-curtailed day with figures of 14-2-38-3, and denting India early in the series.

He warmed up with a first-over maiden, squaring up Cheteshwar Pujara with only his third ball, a preview of how he would eventually dismiss India’s No.3. In no time, Jamieson was hitting perfect lengths, drawing the batsmen forward, but not completely, so as to still keep them rooted to the crease.

Even as Mayank Agarwal held up one end, showing better judgement in leaving balls, Jamieson kept the ball close to the other batsmen, forcing them to play at it, and maintaining the same stifling channel throughout. Suddenly, Boult and Southee weren’t India’s biggest problem anymore.

He reaped the rewards as early as in his third over, when the ball, coming down from the outstretched arm of a 2.02-metre frame, jagged off the surface and forced Pujara to play down the wrong line. Jamieson’s height is a big bonus; hitting the right lengths with it makes for a dream combination.

One over after the Pujara dismissal came the prized scalp of Virat Kohli, who is in the middle of a rare lean patch by his lofty standards. A lazy push at Jamieson’s dipping length ball produced an outside edge that travelled to the cordon, and Ross Taylor delightfully pouched a gift, tumbling backwards, at first slip.

Much like the white sightscreen drapes that kept falling off as the wind, which grew heavier as the day progressed, blew them away, India’s batting lost its shield, blown away by Jamieson’s tactful lines in a top-class performance.

Since the start of 2000, New Zealand’s quicks have maintained a clear upper hand over the touring India outfit. When batting first in New Zealand, India have lost all their 35 wickets to seamers. In the same period, not a single Indian top-three batsman has scored a century in the first innings of a Test. In fact, Agarwal was the first Indian opener, since 1990, to bat through the first session of a Test in New Zealand.

On Friday, India felt the familiar top-order collapse, losing three wickets inside 18 overs. Jamieson inflicted early damage by getting length balls to jag around upon pitching, but it wasn’t the only weapon in his arsenal. His height came into effect post-lunch, when he surprised India’s middle order by slipping in vicious bouncers – one of them grazed past Rahane’s head for four. Right after drinks, he snared Hanuma Vihari to further tighten the noose.

New Zealand have had a lethal fast bowler(s) at their disposal during each of India’s visits in recent times. Darly Tuffey and Shane Bond did the damage in 2002. In 2009, it was Chris Martin, while the Southee-Wagner-Boult triumvirate dominated in 2014. While it’s too soon to judge how this series pans out, Jamieson has made people sit up and take note of his talents on the opening day itself.

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