“It’s time that we work on a lot on the batting, especially batting lower down the order and in both Tests the partnerships down the order have made a difference.”

Virat Kohli said at the end of the Christchurch Test match, the second in the last fortnight that India lost to concede the series 0-2 to New Zealand. The Indian skipper was referring to the 51-run stand between Kyle Jamieson and Neil Wagner at Christchurch and the 71-run partnership between Colin de Grandhomme and Kyle Jamieson at Wellington.

Both times, the lower-order first innings stands played a big role in the outcome of the Test matches as Virat Kohli emphasized. It may not be identified as the sole factor that decided the series like India's top-order issues or lack of bowling incision, but it will remain a pivotal moment in both the matches when analysed deep. 

India's woes with their tail and in finishing off the opposition's tail - particularly in SENA (South Africa, England, New Zealand and Australia) countries - is no new fable. It's an old tale re-told several times with the narrative barely moving an inch here or there.

Read | Are non-strikers scared to say no to Virat Kohli's obsessive reviewing?

Sam Curran, Pat Cummins, Adil Rashid, Kyle Jamieson, Mitchell Starc, Keshav Maharaj and even Trent Boult has had success against India in the lower-order in India's overseas tours since 2018. On the other hand, India's own lower-order (positions 8-11), that averages 25.9 in home Test matches since 2018, averages 16.47 in overseas Test matches in SENA countries in this time frame.

India's lower-order once again failed to step up in New Zealand this series even as the hosts found runs from their lower-order batsmen.

Runs added after the fall of 5th wkt by India this series

  • Wellington, 1st innings: 64 (101/5 to 164)
  • Wellington, 2nd innings: 43 (148/5 to 191)
  • Christchurch, 1st innings: 48 (194/5 to 242)
  • Christchurch, 2nd innings: 40 (84/5 to 124)

Runs added after the fall of 5th wkt by New Zealand this series

  • Wellington, 1st innings: 141 (207/5 to 348)
  • Christchurch, 1st innings: 102 (133/5 to 235)

Since 2018, India's last four wickets (7-10 partnerships) have made 1689 runs in SENA countries in partnerships in 14 Test matches at an average of 17.41. On the other hand, the opposition (SENA teams alone) tail has had more fruitful partnerships. Their wickets 7-10 have added 2027 runs in these Test matches at an average of 22.27. Considering the number of games, that is almost 24 extra runs per Test added by the opposition tail. 

Read | It's not us against you, Virat Kohli

Of India's batsmen at positions 7-11 in Tests in SENA since 2018, only Rishabh Pant and Ravindra Jadeja have fared well with averages of 40.78 and 42.8. These two barely scored in this series (Jadeja in the lone Test) as India struggled to find enough runs from the lower-order.

While it remains a sidekick to India's more glaring flaws exposed on this tour, moments like these decide Test matches and the fact that New Zealand's last five wickets added 100-plus runs in the first innings of both Tests did play a major role in the final outcome.

Feature image courtesy: AFP / Peter Parks