Hamilton: It won’t be an exaggeration to say that even an inter-school match in India would draw more people than at Seddon Park here on Day One of the practice game against New Zealand XI on Friday. In fact, there were more people in the media box than in the stands.
Choosing to bat, India lost Prithvi Shaw (0), Mayank Agarwal (1) and Shubman Gill (0) inside the first 38 balls. With Ajinkya Rahane (18 off 30 balls) too perishing shortly after, the Virat Kohli-less Indians were in a spot of bother at 38-4.
However, Test specialists Hanuma Vihari (101) and Cheteshwar Pujara (93) saved India the blushes. “When I went in, the wicket was doing a lot. There was a lot of grass cover and we lost four early wickets. The plan was to bat along and see off the new ball. Obviously, they were bowling in the right areas and the wicket had extra bounce, more than what I have previously experienced in New Zealand,” said Vihari at the end of the day’s play, with India at 263-9.
Scott hits the deck
Pacer Scott Kuggeleijn (3-40) and spinner Ish Sodhi (3-72) were the pick of the bowlers for New Zealand XI.
Had it not been for Pujara and Vihari’s partnership of 195 runs, India would have been bundled out very cheaply.
Kuggeleijn broke into India’s top order, dismissing Shaw in the very first over. Kuggeleijn, who was hitting the deck hard, got one into Shaw’s rib cage, leaving the batsman in no position to duck. Shaw took his eyes off the ball and with the bat face closed, the ball ballooned up and was taken by Rachin Ravindra at short leg.
Then, Agarwal was caught behind followed by Gill in consecutive deliveries in the seventh over. Agarwal, who has been in horrible form of late, edged an away going delivery to wicketkeeper Dane Cleaver.
Gill’s was another classic Test match dismissal. Handed the No. 4 slot in the absence of Kohli, Gill got a snorter from Kuggeleijn. The delivery grew big on Gill, who tried to defend it but only managed a thick edge to gully, leaving India at 5 for 3.
Rahane (18) was dismissed around the hour mark, edging one to slips, before Vihari and Pujara stemmed the rot. Sodhi helped dismiss India’s lower order. Though the green top made things difficult for the Indian batsmen, Vihari said he relished the challenge.
“Maybe we’ll get [more] pitches like these because their strength is fast bowling. They have a very experienced bowling attack but it’s good that we got some time in the middle and experienced these conditions. They were tough and it’s good to experience tough conditions before the series. We’re happy with the way the day went,” said Vihari.
Kohli, meanwhile, opted for a intense batting session in the nets adjacent to the ground.
Inputs from PTI