Cricket-India juggernaut rolls on at home as spinners wreak havoc

FILE PHOTO: Cricket - ICC World Test Championship Final - India v New Zealand - Rose Bowl, Southampton, Britain - June 22, 2021 India's Virat Kohli celebrates the wicket of New Zealand's Ross Taylor Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley

MUMBAI (Reuters) -India's spinners once again bared their fangs, sealing a record 372-run victory against New Zealand in the second and final test at the Wankhede Stadium on Monday to secure a 14th consecutive series triumph at home.

It was the biggest margin of victory by runs for India in a home match, eclipsing their 337-run win against South Africa in a Delhi test in 2015.

The 1-0 victory meant India have not lost a home series since their 2-1 defeat by England in 2012 and it also helped Virat Kohli's side reclaim top spot in the test rankings, pushing New Zealand to second.

With the series victory, the hosts also avenged their loss to New Zealand in the final of the inaugural World Test Championship in Southampton in June.

India's spinners wasted little time in removing New Zealand's remaining batters on Monday, sealing the victory in a little over three days on the spin-friendly track at the sun-bathed ground overlooking the Arabian Sea.

Rahul Dravid, the side's newly-appointed head coach, said the score did not reflect how hard India had to work for the series win after the first test in Kanpur ended in a draw.

"I know this result looks a bit one-sided but right through the series we've been made to work hard," said the former India captain and batting great.

"There have been phases of the game where we've been behind and had to fight back. Credit to the team for pulling themselves out of some difficult positions."

Spin-bowling all-rounder Jayant Yadav did most of the damage on the fourth morning, picking up 4-49 -- his career-best figures -- to cut through New Zealand's middle and lower order.

With just a few hundred fans present in the stands to cheer the team on, Ravichandran Ashwin took the final wicket to finish with 4-34 as their opponents were all out for 167 in their second innings, chasing an improbable 540 for victory.

The wily off-spinner, the world's leading wicket-taker this year with 52, took eight in Mumbai and was adjudged the player of the series for his tally of 14 wickets from two matches.


The victory will taste sweeter for India after they rested a number of established regulars while also missing a spate of players due to injuries.

"To play test cricket you need passion and intent," Kohli told reporters.

"Indian cricket is in safe hands when you have so many people who have that. People are hungry to play tests well. It's nice to see youngsters want to feel what it is to play tests."

Opening batter Mayank Agarwal, who played because of players being injured or rested, picked up the player of the match award for his scores of 150 and 62.

It was also a happy return for Kohli, who was rested for the three-match Twenty20 series and the drawn first test in Kanpur.

"To come back with a win again, it's a great feeling as a team and for me returning as captain as well," he said at the presentation. "It was just a clinical performance, something we've seen from our team time and again.

"You want individuals to step up and I think in this match they did."

New Zealand's dogged batters had denied India victory in the first test after their last pair hung on for 52 balls in a thrilling final session.

But they were unable to show the same kind of resistance on Monday with India needing just 43 minutes in the first session to wrap up the win after New Zealand had resumed on 140-5.

New Zealand left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel's 10 wickets in the first innings and a match-haul of 14 was one for the record books but their batting skills on a spin-friendly track were found wanting.

Tom Latham, leading the side in place of the injured Kane Williamson, said the tourists were fighting an uphill battle after being bundled out for 62 in their first innings in reply to India's 325.

"Disappointing performance, we always knew it was going to be tough coming over to these parts of the world. Getting bowled out for 60 puts you right behind the eight ball," Latham said.

(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly, additional reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney; Editing by Peter Rutherford and Rohith Nair)

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