As the inaugural World Test Championship final at Southampton got underway on Saturday, India skipper Virat Kohli stood firm in the face of accurate New Zealand speed bowling. India were 146-3 when the third of the day’s stoppages for bad light forced an early end after the first day was washed away without a ball being bowled. Kohli was 44 not out after hitting only one boundary in 124 balls faced.
Meanwhile, Ajinkya Rahane was 29 not out after a 58-run partnership with Kohli for the fourth wicket. Kyle Jamieson, the towering fast, finished the day with incredible figures of 1-14 in 14 overs. So far, only 64.4 overs have been bowled out of 180 scheduled for the first two days.
Under a provision, match umpire Chris Broad has the option of adding an extra day to the regular maximum five days for a men’s Test. It will only be so if he feels the necessity to compensate for time lost due to severe weather earlier in the game.
Kane Williamson won the toss in cloudy circumstances, which suited his five-man pace attack. However, Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill put on a 62-run opening stand. India lost three wickets both before and after lunch, falling to 88-3. If Kohli had been caught behind down the legside by left-arm quick Trent Boult on 17, their situation could have deteriorated.
After some on-field confusion, an umpire review revealed that Kohli had not hit the ball. In the face of New Zealand’s swing and seam, India’s openers got off to a good start. The first ball of the match, from Tim Southee, was confidently brushed off Rohit’s pads for three, while Gill showed his class by driving Jamieson down the ground for four.
With a brilliant cover-driven four off all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme, Rohit brought up the 50 partnership. Given that this was India’s first Test since March, and New Zealand had just clinched a 1-0 series triumph over England with an eight-wicket victory at Edgbaston last week, the openers’ performance was all the more astounding.
However, Rohit’s 68-ball innings, which included six fours, came to an end when he edged a late-swinging Jamieson delivery to third slip. Southee took a brilliant low catch diving to his right. Soon, Gill followed for 28 in what is expected to be the New Zealand wicketkeeper’s final match before retirement.
Cheteshwar Pujara took 51 minutes and 36 balls to get off the mark, hitting a cut four off medium-pacer de Grandhomme to tremendous applause from the Indian fans in the stands. However, after missing a pull off Wagner, Pujara was hit on the head with a bouncer, as he was multiple times during India’s come-from-behind series win in Australia this year.
Pujara’s patient eight off 54 balls came to an end when he was trapped LBW by a Boult inswinger that sliced sharply off the pitch. The players had to go off the field three times for bad light either side of the tea break, even when the floodlights were on. At 16:53, the play came to an end for the final time, but the umpires did not call stumps until more than an hour later.