How can India improve at Hagley Oval?

MOUNT MAUNGANUI, NEW ZEALAND - JANUARY 26: Virat Kohli of India leads his team off after winning game two of the One Day International Series between New Zealand and India at Bay Oval on January 26, 2019 in Mount Maunganui, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Is there an opportunity for India to recover?

New Zealand‘s record at the Hagley Oval, in six completed games, is: won four, lost one and drawn one. Only Australia has triumphed at this venue. All three Asian teams have lost. That does not make good reading if you are an Indian fan. Especially if you are an Indian fan who has just seen their team capitulate twice, for scores of 165 and 191. So you must be wondering how can India improve?

Minimize wickets lost upfront

It is without a doubt that India will fight back. But how they will fightback is not yet affirmative. A stronger opening partnership would be a start. Scores of 16-1 and 27-1 are not quite good enough, because they expose Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara to the new ball, against a skillful pace attack. Though both are more than capable of seeing off and scoring against the new ball, this is a risk India would rather not take. 16-1 quickly became 40-3 in the first innings confirming the level of risk. Therefore, it will please Indian fans, that Mayank Agarwal was able to register a fighting half-century. It is imperative though, that he capitalizes on his starts in the future and builds a solid platform with Prithvi Shaw-in order to set India up for a substantial score. A sturdy start will be vital.

Develop clarity in the thought process

As mentioned previously, taking advantage of good starts is a must. Not just for Agarwal.  46 and 29. 19 and 25. These were the scores of Ajinkya Rahane and Risabh Pant. In combination with Agarwal, the trio managed to “bed-in”. All three are superb batsmen in their own right. But despite getting set, all three perished for middling scores. None of them can claim they received an unplayable delivery. A good ball deserves a wicket, sure. But India will need to apply themselves better, and play lower risk shots. For example, a moment of haste resulted in Agarwal pulling and giving his wicket away from an innocuous delivery. Did he believe in pulling short balls, especially when such a field is set? Did Prithvi Shaw think he was going to score heavily by playing across the line? In difficult conditions, the new batsmen will often struggle to get going. Therefore, the set batsmen must make their opportunity count. India’s blueprint for The Hagley Oval appeared right in front of their eyes. Kane Williamson‘s 89 was a masterclass in playing the ball late, with tremendous powers of concentration.

Better Patience against the lower order

Cape Town 2018. Edgbaston 2018. Southampton 2018. What did all 3 of those games have in common? They were all part of India’s overseas frontier in 2018. In all three test matches, India ascended into strong positions, but could not polish off the lower order, which ultimately cost them the game. At the Hagley Oval last week, India reduced New Zealand to 225-7. They would have been still in the game had the bowled out New Zealand for 250 or thereabouts. But New Zealand managed to score 348, which gave them a lead that proved match-winning in difficult conditions. Kyle Jamieson– picked for his height and hostile bowling, scored 44. Trent Boult added insult to injury, scoring an unlikely 38. India looked inept at closing off the innings. Their various ploys included the seamers bowling back of a length to Boult and Ashwin flighting the new bowl wide of the stumps. Should a spinner have even bowled four overs into the new ball in these conditions? India will need to be patient and bowl on the fourth stump to the lower order. If it is good enough for Ross Taylor and BJ Watling, surely it must be good enough for the lower order?

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