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India vs New Zealand, 1st Test – Shreyas Iyer’s half-century on debut and other talking points from Day 1

The first of the two-test series between India and New Zealand, which is a part of the ICC World Test Championship 2023 cycle, began at the Green Park Stadium in Kanpur on Thursday. After winning the toss, India captain Ajinkya Rahane chose to bat first. In the absence of the likes of KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, India ended Day 1 on 258-4. Kylie Jamieson picked up three wickets, while Tim Southee grabbed one. Let us take a look at all the talking points from the day’s play.

Some star players were missing in action

India are playing this series in the absence of some of their star players. Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah have been rested to manage workload, while KL Rahul was injured ahead of the game. Rahul has sustained a muscle strain on his left thigh and is undergoing rehabilitation at NCA. Shreyas Iyer was handed a Test debut, a decision which paid off well as the Mumbai batter scored a half-century. For New Zealand, Trent Boult was missing in action as he has flown back home after playing the T20I series. Rachin Ravindra was handed a debut.

Shubman Gill’s half-century

An injury to KL Rahul made way for Shubman Gill at the top, an opportunity that the young batter grabbed with both hands. Opening the batting with Mayank Agarwal, Gill scored 52 runs before being sent back by Kylie Jamieson in the 29th over. This is the fourth Test fifty for Gill in nine innings. However, it is interesting to note that the visitors missed reviewing an LBW call against Gill when he was batting on 6. Had the review been taken, the opener might have had to walk back to the pavilion much sooner than he did.  Reviews showed that Gill was out, but New Zealand had already wasted a review earlier in the day, and thought it would be best to move forward with the umpire’s decision. An LBW call against Gill was reversed earlier in the match. After the umpire signalled an out, Gill opted for the DRS and the decision had to be reversed. Amused by the poor umpiring, former India cricketer Akash Chopra wrote on Twitter – “Shubhman was given out when there was a huge inside edge. Gill reviewed and said #ThankYouDRS. And not given when he was out. All that in the first 40 mins. If teams can travel…stay in bio-bubbles…why can’t neutral umpires?”

Rahane-Pujara disappoint

In absence of Rahul, Rohit and Kohli, the focus was on the experienced duo of Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara, both of whom failed to convert their starts into a big innings. Pujara walked out to bat when India were one wicket down for 21 runs. He batted in his usual defensive style before being sent back on 26 off 88 by Tim Southee. Rahane, on the other hand, played a bit more aggressively, scoring 35 off 63, but couldn’t convert the start into a big innings. In the 50th over, the umpire gave Ajinkya Rahane out caught down the leg side but the batter saved his wicket after opting for the DRS which showed there were no inside edge. However, he was dismissed on the very next ball.

While Pujara has played some important knocks on and off in the last few months, Rahane’s inconsistent form over the last two years is becoming a matter of concern for the team management.

In 2021, Rahane has an average of only 19.57 in 19 innings. Against England in August, the batter from Mumbai was dismissed on paltry scores in six of the seven innings he played. Another disappointing performance, and the pressure will start mounting on the stand-by India captain.

A debut to remember for Shreyas Iyer

Ahead of the series, there was a lot of suspicion on who between Suryakumar Yadav and Shreyas Iyer, teammates in the Mumbai team, will make a Test debut. The management eventually went in with Iyer, a decision that they will be happy with. Iyer began his first-ever innings in whites cautiously, scoring only 17 off 55 before tea. However, he batted aggressively post-tea, and was unbeaten on 75 off 136 at stumps. His last shot of the day was a big six over midwicket off Will Somerville. Iyer was well supported by Ravindra Jadeja on the other hand, and the two shared an unbroken partnership of113 for the fifth wicket. Jadeja remained not out on 50, which is now his 17th half-century in Test cricket.

After years of scoring plenty of runs for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy, a Test call-up was well deserved by Iyer. In 54 First Class games, Iyer has 4592 runs at an average of 52.18, which includes 12 centuries and 23 fifties.

Recap of New Zealand’s bowling

All the four wickets taken on the day were by the fast bowlers, and this is not something you see often on the kind of pitch Kanpur has. Kylie Jamieson, who was rested for the T20I series, grabbed three wickets. He sent back Agarwal, Gill and Rahane, while Tim Southee dismissed Pujara. The spinners – Ajaz Patel, Rachin Ravindra and Will Somerville, however, couldn’t make the most of the conditions on offer. While Somerville was economical, Patel and Ravindra were on the receiving end of a few big shots played by Gill and Iyer.

Overall, India ended day one on a strong note. The partnership between Iyer and Jadeja will help them get to a good first innings total on day two in Kanpur.

Also read: Purchase Abu Dhabi T10 Season Ticket at only Rs. 25

Umaima Saeed
A writer who primarily writes on cricket. As of 2021, she has covered cricket for more than a dozen publications.

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