Ish Sodhi has come a long way.
New Zealand defied all the odds and punched above their weight to have a Test series win against the formidable English side at home. After an emphatic win at Eden Park, New Zealand returned from the dead to save the Christchurch Test and seal the series 1-0. England were on the brink of a much-needed win, but some mind-boggling resistance from Ish Sodhi, Colin de Grandhomme and Neil Wagner under the pump didn’t let them achieve fruitful results. It is often said, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. And New Zealand trio did well to thrive under pressure, especially Sodhi.
Primarily known for his leg-spin, Sodhi’s prowess with the bat is well-known. But the final day of this Test demanded something spectacular from the Kiwis and Sodhi, Grandhomme and Wagner did well to save the day for their side. Sodhi batted for more than three hours in the nerve-wracking situation and was equally supported by the tail, especially Neil Wagner.
Sodhi confronted 168 deliveries for his unbeaten 56. New Zealand were well placed at 42 for no loss at the start of the final day. Although the target was miles away, but all the results were possible at this stage. English bowlers did well to chip early wickets and when BJ Watling was dismissed for 19 while New Zealand being 162 for 6, a defeat looked imminent. At the crease were a recognised batsman Grandhomme and Sodhi, who has been handy with the bat in the past. But this situation demanded more than being handy.
Sodhi stuck to his guns and came out fighting, he didn’t get carried away. “It means a lot to me to be able to contribute to this team. I was pretty disappointed with the way I bowled, so to be able to come away with a contribution and go towards a series victory was great for me,” Sodhi was quoted in a report from stuff.co.nz.
This was also Sodhi’s third Test fifty and undoubtedly his best performance. He delivered when his team needed the most and exhibited monk-like temperament. Sodhi and Grandhomme saw a total of 157 deliveries together for 57 runs. Then came the unexpected stand between Wagner and Sodhi where they saw 188 deliveries for 37 runs, but made the English bowlers toil.
Wagner played out 103 deliveries for his 7 and did well to keep the English bowlers at bay. “He (Wagner) kept me going, there were some demons out there for sure. The ball started turning out of the rough a little bit. I found it quite hard to pick up the bowlers from around the wicket. He’s a bit of a mongrel with the ball and he’s got that same mentality with the bat,” Sodhi added.
There was intensity, there was drama, there was emotion. To deliver in such a high-voltage situation, one needed to show immense temperament and hold the nerves. When Sodhi and Wagner got going, English bowlers tried every possible option they could have, but couldn’t break through. The pitch was difficult to bat on, but Sodhi and Wagner were extremely cautious and didn’t throw it away.
“I was trying to figure out which balls to play and which ball to get under. It started to become quite difficult through the middle period when the odd one would jump and others would stay a little bit low. I suppose you can’t really nick it and you can’t get bowled or lbw, so I guess if you can get out of the road, it’s a win. You could sense their frustration during that time, but I guess a bit of fortune went our way and we can move away with a series victory,” Sodhi added.
This heroic performance from the trio earned accolades from many including their skipper Kane Williamson. He said, “Someone like De Grandhomme, who curbed his instinct. For such a stroke-maker to stick around for 100 balls. Neil Wagner and Ish Sodhi were heroic, really. If it wasn’t for them putting their hands up, weathering the storm, bumps and bruises and all…. This series result could have been so different.”
Sodhi now has 422 runs from 15 Tests at a healthy average of 24.82. This performance has only raised his stocks in the Kiwi side. He remained wicketless with the ball, but ensured he delivered with the bat. He is slowly establishing himself as an impactful all-rounder and this outing gave a picture of what’s in the store.