Latham was glad he could finally forge a good opening partnership, but said it was bittersweet watching all the hard work being undone by Ashwin. © BCCI

Latham was glad he could finally forge a good opening partnership, but said it was bittersweet watching all the hard work being undone by Ashwin. © BCCI

Tom Latham has been New Zealand’s most consistent batsman in their tough three-Test series in India. The left-hand opening batsman, in his first tour of the subcontinent, has hit a half-century in each of the three Tests.

The first two knocks ended in vain. It seemed like the third one, scored on the third day in Indore, would help New Zealand end on a more positive note, but that too appeared unlikely after R Ashwin’s heroics on Monday (October 10).

Latham was involved in a 118-run stand with Martin Guptill, the highest opening partnership of the series, but Ashwin’s 6 for 81 meant New Zealand folded for 299. India then ended the day with a lead of 276 with all ten second-innings wickets intact.

Latham was glad he could finally forge a good opening partnership, but said it was bittersweet watching all the hard work being undone by Ashwin.

“It was nice that me and Guptill built a partnership chasing such a big total (557 for 5 decl),” he said after Day 3. “It’s important that you put those big partnerships and it’s nice we managed to do that at the top. Unfortunately we lost wickets in clumps. We threatened to build partnerships, but kept losing wickets regularly. A little bit disappointed to finish the way we did.”

Latham said tackling Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja’s relentless combined attack required as much mental skill as technical knowhow. He, however, argued it was possible to score runs against the two even though New Zealand couldn’t do it for extended periods. “They’re world-class especially in their own conditions,” said Latham. “They bowled a lot of overs and have taken wickets. It’s a mixture (of mental and technical skills). We got to stick to a game plan on this surface and stay true to what we believe works.

“If you have the right technique and mental state you can score runs out there. It’s obviously deteriorating and starting to turn more. It might not be cracking up so much but there are dust and footmarks for bowlers to work with. They’ll be targeting those areas in the second innings so we have got to find a way of rectifying that. We’ve got a big couple of days and when we get a chance with the bat, we’ve got to put those partnerships together.”

While the easy ones were put away, Latham showed admirable restraint in tackling the tough challenges in the press conference, just like he did in the middle earlier.

When asked what he thought of the absence of DRS for the series – Jimmy Neesham was given out lbw wrongly – Latham said, “It’s out at the end of the day. There’s no DRS, but there’s a suggestion that it might’ve been missing. That’s cricket and we’ve got to take that on board.”

Latham also dead-batted a question on the Indian players repeatedly running on the pitch, saying he had nothing to do with it. Jadeja was fined 50% of his match fee for the offence in the New Zealand first innings, while M Vijay, too, was warned while batting in the second. “It’s out of our hands as players, we’ve got nothing to do with it, it’s up to the umpires they make the call,” said Latham.

When pressed further if he thought it was deliberate, Latham maintained his composure. “Guys are going to walk on the wicket. It doesn’t bother me too much,” he offered. “We’ve got a big job to do in the second innings. We’re going to focus on that.”

If he can continue to tackle the tough ones in the second innings as he did during the first, and in the press box, New Zealand can hope to finish the series well.