India are well on their way to winning the first Test in Kanpur. They were delayed a bit by some stubborn batting from Luke Ronchi and Mitchell Santner but they have the whole of day five to deliver the knockout punch. Their batsmen especially Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara put them in that position with some fine batting and then Ravichandran Ashwin who is galloping towards legendary status got three big wickets to push the Kiwis on the backfoot. He also became the second fastest to get to 200 Test wickets and but for the washout in Trinidad could have been the joint fastest to the mark along with Clarrie Grimmet.
KL Rahul has shown a pleasing streak where he is prepared to play shots freely. However he will be disappointed that having got starts in both the innings he has not converted them into hundreds as has been his wont.
Vijay and Pujara batted well in the first innings and they carried that form in the second innings too where they batted as superbly as Tom Latham and Kane Williamson had done in New Zealand's first innings. They seemed to have learnt from the manner in which Ronchi and Santner had used the depth of the batting crease to play the backfoot cover drive and the cut shot and Pujara in particular went so deep into his crease that occasionally he was perilously close to hitting his own wicket. Pujara too has shown a more aggressive approach to batting than he did in the West Indies and one can safely say that it's commendable since this New Zealand attack is far more tougher than the West Indian attack that India had played.
Vijay had not batted since his injury in the West Indies and so it was understandable that he took his time to settle down in the first innings. Here in the second he was happy to play his natural elegant game and kept the scoreboard ticking at a healthy rate. Their partnership ensured that the Kiwi bowlers did not make early inroads and so when Rohit Sharma came in to bat he was under no pressure at all as the Kiwi bowlers were pretty tired by then. He is a fine stroke player who often gets impatient and thus loses his wicket. Here he came in when quick runs was the order of the day and so even if he got out playing shots nobody would grudge him that. Along with Ravindra Jadeja he took the tired Kiwi attack apart and gave India a score of over 400 to defend.
Martin Guptill would have preferred to come in to bat in the same free state of mind that Sharma came in but with fielders clustered around the bat he went for a big shot and was out caught.
When the going is tough a lot of batsmen try to hit their way out of trouble but to succeed you need a good pitch. This pitch is low and slow and the ball is turning which didn't help. Ashwin then struck two blows as he trapped the stabilisers of the New Zealand first innings, Latham and skipper Williamson in front of the stumps and with Ross Taylor forgetting the basics of grounding his bat and thus being run-out the Kiwis are facing a big defeat.
If Ronchi and the others can drag the game past lunch that will be a huge boost for the Kiwis. Their batting approach in this game has been a muddled one and they will have to quickly rethink that if they are not to be crushed in the series.