68 overs Indians 217 for 4 (Pujara 87*, Vihari 85*, Kuggeleijn 3-40) v New Zealand XI
Prithvi Shaw, Mayank Agarwal, Shubman Gill. On a green Seddon Park pitch that offered the new ball steep, tennis-ball bounce, Scott Kuggeleijn took just 3.2 overs to rip out the three contenders to open for India in the first Test in Wellington next week.
From 5 for 3, which became 38 for 4, the Indians recovered courtesy an unbroken stand of 179 between Cheteshwar Pujara and Hanuma Vihari, and were 217 for 4 at the drinks break midway through the final session. Both saw off the early discomfort before bedding in against the older ball, on a pitch that flattened out once it lost its early moisture.
It was far trickier to bat on at the start, however, and it may be harsh to read too much into the scores of 0, 1 and 0 against the names of the three opening candidates.
Four balls after the two teams agreed to let the Indians bat first, Shaw was out for a duck, caught at short leg, fending one that rose unexpectedly towards his throat from short of a length. In Kuggeleijn’s fourth over – the seventh of the Indians’ innings – Agarwal fell for one that left him outside off stump, and edged behind to Dane Cleaver.
On the eve of this match, Gill had spoken about the need for India to ensure New Zealand don’t take too many wickets with the short ball in the Tests. A short ball sent him on his way here, though it was a hard one to negotiate, climbing awkwardly in the fourth-stump channel. Gill, who had made 83, 204* and 136 in his last three innings, was out first ball, opening up and fending to gully.
The ball continued to nip around for the next half hour or so, and seam movement consumed Ajinkya Rahane, caught at slip off James Neesham, after he had looked reasonably solid in a 33-run fourth-wicket stand with Pujara.
More to follow…
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