Zero-sum game

Young opening specialists Shaw, Gill fail to score; Vihari-Pujara to the rescue

Zero-sum game

Hanuma Vihari and Cheteshwar Pujara added 195 runs for the fifth wicket to rescue the team from 38/4. NZC

Hamilton, February 14

India’s two 20-year-old opening specialists, Prithvi Shaw and Shubman Gill, were rattled by short, bouncing deliveries and dismissed without scoring on Day 1 of the practice match against New Zealand XI here. Hanuma Vihari’s gutsy hundred and the seasoned Cheteshwar Pujara’s 92 were the bright spots in an otherwise dreadful batting performance by India.

Mayank Agarwal and Prithvi Shaw wait to go in to bat. Agarwal, Shaw and third opening specialist Shubman Gill scored a combined total of 1 run among them on Day 1. BCCI

All three designated openers — Mayank Agarwal (1), Shaw (0) and Gill (0) — failed the seam and bounce test on a grassy wicket.

Skipper Virat Kohli opted to sit out of the match, and India were bowled out for only 263, with none apart from Vihari (101 retired) and Pujara able to score even 20 runs.

Openers’ woes

What would worry the Indian team management was failure of all three openers. Shaw and Gill were undone by the extra bounce while Agarwal failed to counter to seam movement.

The pitch had a generous green cover and the New Zealanders could celebrate their successes through the day.

New Zealand pacer Scott Kuggeleijn (3/40) got the ball to rear up awkwardly from a length during his first spell and Shaw’s dismissal was the ugliest one. Kuggeleijn, who was hitting the deck hard, got one to rise into Shaw’s ribcage, leaving the batsman in no position to duck. The ball ballooned up after hitting his bat and was taken by Rachin Ravindra at short leg.

Agarwal, who has been in horrible form of late, then edged an away-going delivery to wicketkeeper Dane Cleaver. Another classic Test match dismissal was that of Gill, who came in at No. 4 in the absence of Kohli. The snorter from Kuggeleijn grew big on Gill, who tried defending but could only edge the ball to gully, and it was 5/3 in no time.

Fightback

Ajinkya Rahane (18) was out by the end of the first hour, edging one to the slips, before Vihari and Pujara stemmed the rot with a 195-run stand. Once they saw of Kuggeleijn’s first spell and the skiddy Blair Tickner, batting became easy in the second and third sessions.

When the spinners came on, Pujara pulled Ish Sodhi over long leg for a six while Vihari hit three sixers down the ground off left-arm spinner Ravindra. Pujara was finally out in the final session when he tried to hook Jake Gibson but Vihari got to the three-figure mark in the next over.

India lost the last six wickets for 30 runs but what stuck out like a sore thumb was more bad shot selection by Rishabh Pant — he tried an ugly hoick off Sodhi, only to be caught at extra cover. — PTI

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