India vs New Zealand First Test: Rahane holds fort as rest falter on challenging track

The Indian top-order collapsed in testing conditions as the side crawled to 122/5 on the opening day of the first Test. Ajinkya Rahane waged a lone battle.

Published : Feb 21, 2020 11:19 IST , Wellington

Ajinkya Rahane defends a delivery on day one of the first Test against New Zealand on Friday.
Ajinkya Rahane defends a delivery on day one of the first Test against New Zealand on Friday.

Ajinkya Rahane defends a delivery on day one of the first Test against New Zealand on Friday.

There was laughter all around when Kane Williamson chased his cap, blown away by the blustery wind, around the park.

But then, for the most part, the Kiwi skipper, with attacking field placements and smart bowling changes, had his finger on the pulse of the game on Day one of the first Test against India at the Basin Reserve on Friday.

Before rain intervened after Tea to end opening day’s play before a goodly crowd, New Zealand had pushed India, 122 for five, on to the backfoot. The host had won the toss and opted to bowl.

India vs New Zealand 1st Test: Scorecard | Commentary

Debutant paceman, the lanky Kyle Jamieson, scalped three, with his speed, relentless off-stump line and bounce. The lad has a future.

For India, Ajinkya Rahane (38 batting) showed some resilience. He shortened his back-lift and held the bat firm while playing against the wind; a straight-drive off Jamieson was the pick.    

The batsmen’s footwork was bound to be tested in these conditions; on a greenish pitch and under a cloud-cover.

A dejected Virat Kohli walks back after failing to make an impression on day one of the first Test.

When the ball was fuller in length, the batsmen had to get on to the front foot to get to the sphere’s pitch. And when the ball was short or just short of a good length, the backfoot play became essential.

The good length deliveries, hitting the top of off-stump, were the hardest to negotiate. The batsmen had to make a judgment call moving either forward or backwards, and not get caught out at the crease.

And the guard had to be aligned with the stance for the batsmen to judge deliveries on or around the off-stump. Apart from a fighting Rahane and, to some extent Mayank Agarwal, the Indian batsmen were found wanting.

Prithvi Shaw lived dangerously, edging past slips and flashing an uppish cut to the fence.

He succumbed to a mean delivery from Tim Southee, pitched up, and leaving the batsman, to hit off. Shaw was lured into a drive by the length, leaving his defence open.

At the other end, left-armer Trent Boult, striving for rhythm, got the ball to shape away from the right-hander but could not quite move the ball into the batsman.

Jamieson was always going to be a threat with his height, lift and line. The Kiwi took out Cheteshwar Pujara with a delivery that straightened and gained in height to find the outside edge.

A contest was surely on when a charged-up Jamieson bounded in against Virat Kohli. Perhaps, the Indian captain expected the delivery to hit the good length and then rise around off.

However, Jamieson drew Kohli into a false stroke with a pitched-up delivery rather wide of the off-stump. The Indian skipper got the fatal nick and Ross Taylor, making his 100th Test more memorable, snaffled a fine catch in the cordon.

Kyle Jamieson was the pick of the New Zealand as he scalped three wickets.

Although beaten by the movement on a few occasions, opener Agarwal was sound in defence, stroked in the straight field for runs.

On a surface such as the one at Basin Reserve, a batsman has to play close to his body, keep the good deliveries away by covering for the swing, look for pushes down the ground rather than go for big drives and essay the cut and the pull if the delivery was lacking in length.

The fourth-wicket pair added 48 before Agarwal (34) fell, caught at fine-leg, unable to keep a hook off Trent Boult down.

Earlier in the over, Agarwal had offered Boult a sharp return catch which the bowled fluffed.

Williamson did not have anybody deep from third man to long-off on the off-side and just had a mid-wicket and a fine-leg on the leg-side. It is possible that amidst the cordon of close catchers, Agarwal could have missed the fielder at long leg.

Hanuma Vihari’s on-drive was a relaxed yet classy shot, but he was done in by a Jamieson delivery, pitched up, that took the edge for wicket-keeper Watling to take a sharp catch.

The Indians have to work on their footwork.

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