WTC final on knife-edge for sixth day
Published : Wednesday, 23 June, 2021 at 9:10 AM Count : 216
All four results remain possible in the final of the World Test Championship after an engrossing fifth day between India and New Zealand in Southampton.
India closed on 64-2, leading by 32, meaning the Test will go into a sixth and final day because of time lost to the weather earlier in the match.
Earlier, New Zealand ground out a first-innings lead of 32 by turning their overnight 101-2 into 249 all out.
Up against high-class fast bowling, captain Kane Williamson dug in for 49 from 177 balls, while Kyle Jamieson and Tim Southee added important cameos of 21 and 30 respectively.
Southee then trapped Shubman Gill lbw for eight early in India's second innings and dismissed his opening partner Rohit Sharma in the same manner 15 minutes before the close when he horribly misjudged a leave and fell lbw, offering no shot, for 30.
It leaves New Zealand as the most likely winners, if they can bowl India out on the reserve day and leave themselves enough time to chase a target.
India could still win - but it would likely take a rapid acceleration in their scoring rate or an aggressive declaration from captain Virat Kohli, who is unbeaten overnight on eight.
Good weather is forecast for day six, but if no win is possible in a maximum of 98 overs, the two teams will be crowned joint winners.
Two spectators were ejected from the Hampshire Bowl on Tuesday after organisers received reports of abuse directed towards the New Zealand players.
Tense day gives hope of finale
Whatever happens on Wednesday, it will be a landmark occasion - the first six-day Test since 2005 and first in England since 1975, as some overs from the two full days lost to weather earlier in the match are made up.
Day five was another tense day as both sides threatened force the match fully into their favour.
After a pedestrian start from New Zealand's batters, India brought the contest to life by taking three wickets before lunch.
Ross Taylor hit Mohammed Shami to short extra cover for 11, Henry Nicholls was squared up and caught well at second slip by Rohit for seven off Ishant Sharma, before Shami (4-76) comprehensively bowled BJ Watling third ball.
Three wickets had fallen for 34 runs in the session and New Zealand were still 135-5, trailing by 82.
India sensed the chance of a lead but were thwarted by the resolute Williamson.
As he dropped anchor - the Kiwi captain scored only 15 from his first 100 balls, his lowest total after 100 deliveries in his career - Jamieson and then Southee played more enterprising knocks.
New Zealand wrested the upper hand and their advantage increased when Gill played horribly across the line to a Southee inswinger.
Rohit and Cheteshwar Pujara then looked to have halted New Zealand's momentum in a long evening session until opener Rohit's brain fade.
That left New Zealand on top but, with Kohli at the crease and the attacking talents of Rishabh Pant to come, India are not quite out of it.