Bowlers leave WTC final on knife edge

LONDON: New Zealand claimed a handy first-innings lead of 32 and restricted India to 64-2 on an absorbing fifth day’s play in the final of the inaugural World Test Championship (WTC) on Tuesday.

Mohammed Shami inspired India’s lion-hearted effort with the ball on day five to deny New Zealand a bigger lead in the low-scoring match. India are 32 runs ahead with eight wickets in hand heading into the reserve day on Wednesday, which has been activated to make up for lost time in the weather-hit match.

Captain Virat Kohli, batting on eight, and Cheteshwar Pujara, on 12, will hope to avoid any dramatic collapse which could gift New Zealand a shot at the title. Earlier, resuming on 101-2, New Zealand were all out for 249 for a 32-run first innings lead at the Ageas Bowl.

Kane Williamson compiled a painstaking 49, while Tim Southee (30) and Kyle Jamieson (21) provided cameos to push New Zealand past India’s first-innings total of 217. Shami (4-76) led India’s fightback after skipper Virat Kohli made three inspired bowling changes in the morning session.

Shami had Ross Taylor caught spectacularly by a diving Shubman Gill at cover before the seamer sent BJ Watling’s bails flying with a fuller delivery. The seamer, who got the ball to swing and bounce alarmingly, returned after the lunch break to claim the wickets of Colin de Grandhomme and Jamieson.

Williamson hit a boundary to put New Zealand ahead but fell agonisingly short of what could have been only the second individual fifty of the match. Ishant Sharma (3-48) ended the New Zealand skipper’s five-hour vigil, inducing him into feebly poking at a delivery and Kohli grabbed the edge standing wide at second slip.

India lost opener Gill before they could wipe out the first-innings deficit and Rohit Sharma made 30 before Southee trapped him lbw to deny India the upper hand. The one-off match lost two full days to rain on England’s south coast, diminishing hopes of a result in the inaugural world Test championship final.

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