When a side comes as close to winning as India did
and the opposition is more than 100 away from their score, it is tempting to look for a few priceless minutes from earlier in the match. The mind immediately goes to India's last partnership before declaration, which went at a little over three an over for over 20 overs. However, India coach Rahul Dravid
said those runs were extremely important to bat New Zealand out of the game. He didn't feel India had got the timing of the declaration wrong, which left New Zealand 284 to get at under three an over.
Dravid was asked if Wriddhiman Saha and Axar Patel could have been more adventurous in that partnership and given India an extra half hour. "I don't think so," Dravid said. "That is not my reading of the game. Till half an hour before we declared, we were under pressure. All three results were possible.
"To be very honest with you, if we had got out - Wriddhiman Shaha showed great courage and character to be batting with the stiff neck that he had - if we had lost our three wickets quickly and they were chasing 240-250 in approximately 110 overs, then they are looking at 2.2-2.3 runs an over. So no that is not my reading of the game. We needed that partnership."
Dravid went on to suggest they would have approached the final session of day four differently had they not lost half-centurion Shreyas Iyer to the last ball before tea, but then stopped himself. "We lost Shreyas just before tea," Dravid said. "Then we had that partnership, which was critical for us. From 167 for 7 to get to 230 for 7 was absolutely necessary. If this wicket was turning square and bouncing, and we had both the edges in play, I would have… you know there would have been a different situation.
"My reading of the game was not that at all. Even today you walk into the ground, and you know the opposition needs just under three an over. That's not a lot of runs if a couple of batters get set. Of course, we thought we did it well. We timed it well. We managed to get a wicket yesterday, and we came very close today. We were under pressure as well, people forget that, even 45 minutes before we declared."
The biggest deciding factor was the conditions, an unresponsive pitch that took out a couple of modes of dismissals from the game. "Facts of the pitch were it probably was low and slow, probably didn't have that much bounce, didn't have turn," Dravid said. "You probably expect a little bit more of wear and tear on these wickets in Indian conditions over five days. This didn't seem to have that bite. Generally on days four and five, as a spinner, you can challenge both the edges. The outside edge for the catches, and you can get the lbws by beating the inside edge. Honestly, in this Test the outside edge was virtually ruled out.
"Even on the last day, none of the edges carried. I can't remember a catch close to the wicket. [KS] Bharat [substitute wicketkeeper] took a couple but other than that there was nothing. It sort of felt like there was only one way to get people out, which is lbw and bowled. Which was probably true in the last session."
Dravid lauded his bowlers for bringing India as close as they did despite the pitch. "I think we did a great job in spite of that," he said. "It was tough. Look we expect it to be tough in Kanpur. Let's be honest, I have played here before, I know wickets here can be tough, but this was probably even lower and slower than anything I have experienced here.
"Usually on day five you should get little more help. The cracks widen up a little bit. I don't know, maybe it is the winter. I don't know what it was but it just felt like if you wanted to block and not score runs, it was difficult to get you out. We saw that. We had quality guys who were able to make a game out of this. Otherwise this could have been a dull draw."
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo