The first ball of the 28th over of New Zealand's innings took off from nowhere to beat Ross Taylor's cut. This, at around quarter past four, was only the 15th ball after the rain break. The pitch had stayed under covers for more than two hours, and was now beginning to misbehave. To make matters worse, Taylor seemed to suggest he couldn't see the ball clearly enough. The next ball nipped back in, took Taylor's inside edge and went for four. Taylor's eyes widened again and the head shook. Umpire Rod Tucker moved in from square leg, stood on the pitch, used his light metre, and found the light to be good enough.
Virat Kohli saw both these occurrences. This new-ball pitch was behaving differently under floodlights for whatever reason, and there was uncertainty in Taylor's mind and his eye. Sensing his moment, Kohli removed Ravindra Jadeja, who had broken a partnership just before the rain break. He went to the man who can extract every ounce of assistance from the pitch and expose every bit of uncertainty in the batsman: Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who said he had told himself before the start of the match that he needed to take a home five-for now that he had got a helpful pitch.
In these conditions Bhuvneshwar knew what to do. In West Indies, at times, he bowled to 8-1 fields without conceding any runs into the leg side. Here, against a better batting unit, Bhuvneshwar asked for a 7-2 field, but the idea was clear - make Taylor play almost everything with the light fading. No easy leaves. The first ball that Bhuvneshwar bowled was on a length, outside off, and Taylor had to play the angle. The seam took the edge, and Taylor walked back shaking his head.
Kohli got into the act, got the small crowd that stayed back to keep getting louder and put pressure on the batsmen. With his accuracy and an upright seam, Bhuvneshwar provided the batsmen no respite. Shami kept pounding in aggressively. India knew they had nothing to lose in this little period of play. Whatever time they would get under the lights was a bonus, and their fast bowlers could go all out without having to worry about recovering.
Not before long Bhuvneshwar's accuracy worked again. In two balls, he removed Mitchell Santner and Matt Henry. New Zealand had lost Luke Ronchi to a rough call, a non-turning delivery from Jadeja that was sliding down leg, to what turned out to be the last ball before the rain break, but this period of play was a body blow. New Zealand had nowhere to go. Even India wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha reached in for a bit of sympathy for New Zealand batsmen, saying the ball started doing things under the lights and that it is difficult to see the ball properly when you have just come out.
There was no ambiguity in what was happening, though. Not in Luke Ronchi's mind at least. At the end of day one, the umpires had told New Zealand they couldn't continue bowling pace. New Zealand opted not to bowl spin, and the umpires took the players off. The light metre is just a guideline under the ICC playing conditions, but the convention is for the first reading to become a benchmark for the rest of the match. On succeeding days, there is generally no play when light dips to that reading. It is also assumed that the side batting at that time was made to bat in better light so play can't be called off until the light becomes just as dim.
Ronchi was fine with that arrangement. "I'm assuming it was exactly the same case as it was yesterday," Ronchi said. "I think the umpires, when it gets to a certain point of light level or reading or whatever it is, that's sort of like the starting point for when seamers can bowl and when the spinners have to bowl, when you have the option. Whatever it was, it was the umpire's decision really."
Ronchi was aware of Taylor's displeasure with the light, but he said people react differently when they get out. About the two previous deliveries when Taylor seemed to suggest difficulty in seeing the ball clearly, Ronchi said the decision was still the umpire's.
"It's still the same," Ronchi said. "It is the umpire's decision really. There's nothing we can do about it. We could say something and make the umpires have a look at it. In the end of it all, it is the umpire's decision. So we go with whatever they are saying."
Ronchi was similarly philosophical about two rough lbw calls in three innings in this series. "It's cricket," Ronchi said. "I think I got away with one against Jadeja today (an earlier lbw shout that looked out). You can't complain. It's going to happen lot of times. You get some good ones, you are going to get away with some. You just turn up and keep going along. Keep staying positive and hit the ball like you want to hit the ball and stuff like that. Get as many runs as possible. That's how it goes."
There was only a small bit of ambiguity in the light-metre benchmarks. It is possible that light deteriorated dramatically on day one and gradually on day two. So a marginally better reading on day two compared to that of day one does not necessarily mean that the light was good enough for New Zealand to bat on. That might be just splitting hairs. And as Ronchi said, the final call is the umpire's.