Shubman Gill hits half-century; Pujara, Rahane toss away sound starts.
Sunil Gavaskar never gets tired of reiterating the importance of converting a good start for batsmen, particularly in Test cricket.
On this day, in perfect batting conditions at the Green Park Stadium, most Indian batters were guilty of not putting a price tag on their wickets. They did all the hard work to get their eye in but could not proceed to make it count. The saving grace was the domination of debutant Shreyas Iyer and Ravindra Jadeja in the third session that made India feel a lot better by raising the total to 258/4 at stumps.
The importance of the ongoing 113-run stand can be understood well if one considers India’s awkwardness on being reduced to 145/4 in the second session.
New Zealand had its moments when comeback-man Kyle Jamieson was rewarded with three wickets for his consistently teasing line close to the off-stump – the dismissal of Mayank Agarwal was a prime example. None of the bowlers looked half as effective. In fact, young half centurion Shubman Gill did have some luck when replays showed that left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel could have won a leg-before verdict in his first over had he asked for a referral.
Clearly, the day belonged to Shreyas. He, too, had slices of luck but did not hold back his natural flair for striking the ball. Spinners made no impression on the Mumbai batsman who played an assertive role in the partnership with Jadeja.
Promoted ahead of Wriddhiman Saha, Jadeja proved an ideal foil for Shreyas and reached a 17th Test half-century. He batted cleverly and scored briskly. As a result, this right-left combination seized the initiative in the final session that produced 104 runs in 28 overs.
Earlier, Shubman did not hold back his stroke-making instincts and hit his fourth half century. Though not convincing, the run-making of Shubman ensured the first session belonged to the host.
After Shubman’s fall in the first over of the second session, the cautious duo of Cheteshwar Pujara and skipper Ajinkya Rahane missed out on an opportunity to strike big.
Pujara’s 88-ball 26 and Rahane’s 63-ball 35 ended with inside edges leading to their dismissals. After Pujara went to play a delivery away from the off-stump line to be caught behind, Rahane’s attempted cut left his stumps shattered.
As long as these batsmen were in the middle, batting looked far more challenging than it did when Shreyas and Jadeja came along.
Earlier, New Zealand’s choice to leave out two left-arm bowling options, spinner Mitchell Santner and speedster Neil Wagner raised eyebrows.
In opting to strengthen its batting, the visiting team brought in debutant Rachin Patel, who also bowls left-arm spin. As expected, the off-spin of William Somerville was preferred as a second spin option after Ajaz.
But so far, these Kiwi spinners have made no impression and it was not surprising to find all four wickets falling to the faster bowlers. Tim Southee, who scalped Pujara, did have his fitness issues but returned to bowl another spell.
Reflecting on the day’s play, Jamieson said, “I found the swing early and it was up and down a little bit. Hopefully, the new ball swings a little bit in the morning and we can get them. India is a fraction ahead but I think we hung around pretty well. We need a good start in the morning.”
India 1st Innings: Mayank Agarwal c Tom Blundell b Jamieson 13; Shubman Gill b Jamieson 52; Cheteshwar Pujara c Tom Blundell b Southee 26; Ajinkya Rahane b Jamieson 35; Shreyas Iyer batting 75; Ravindra Jadeja batting 50. Extras: (b-1, lb-1, w-1, nb-4) 7
Total: 258 for 4 in 84 overs
Fall of wickets: 1-21, 2-82, 3-106, 4-145
New Zealand bowling: Tim Southee 16.4-3-43-1, Kyle Jamieson 15.2-6-47-3, Ajaz Patel 21-6-78-0, William Somerville 24-2-60-0, Rachin Ravindra 7-1-28-0.