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India vs New Zealand, 2nd Test Day 1 – Talking Points

India rode on Mayank Agarwal’s unbeaten 120 and reached 221/4 at stumps on day one of this second Test match at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. The New Zealand bowlers were disappointing and it was only Ajaz Patel who stood out and dominated proceedings for the visitors.

India won the toss and opted to bat first. The openers gave them a wonderful start before Ajaz Patel picked up three quick wickets to leave India reeling at 80/3. However, Agarwal shared crucial stands with Shreyas Iyer and Wriddhiman Saha to take India well past 200 and slightly ahead at the end of the day. Barring Patel and to some extent Tim Southee, none of the Kiwi bowlers looked threatening and released the pressure more often than not. That was a big reason why New Zealand couldn’t really drive home the advantage despite having India at 80/3.

Here are the talking points from the match:

Wet outfield washes out first session

Mumbai saw a lot of rainfall in the days leading up to this second Test match. The weather gods relented on the eve of the Test match but it had damaged the outfield quite a bit. Due to wet patches all around the ground, especially the areas around the bowler’s run-up and the close-in areas around the pitch. Thus, there was no play in the second session and play started two and a half hours late.

Opening stand sets up the game for India

The Indian openers laid a solid foundation at the top. Mayank Agarwal and Shubman Gill batted with authority and assurance for most part of the first session of play. The duo saw off the testing spell from Tim Southee before Gill started off with a flurry of boundaries against Kyle Jamieson who erred in line and length and was inconsistent in his first spell. William Somerville was attacked and milked around for runs easily. Ajaz Patel was consistent and the Indian opening pair were circumspect against the left-arm spinner. Gill and Agarwal constantly rotated strike well and they pounced on anything loose. The pair put on 80 runs for the opening wicket and batted out 27.3 overs before Gill was dismissed for 44.

Ajaz Patel lone star for the Kiwis

India had a fantastic opening stand and it seemed like the Agarwal-Gill pair were running away with the game. They looked at ease against most of the Kiwi bowlers and it was Ajaz Patel who created problems from his end. The left-arm spinner found turn straightaway and constantly threatened both edges of the both. He went past the outside edge on a few occasions but couldn’t find the edge.

In fact, Tom Blundell also missed a stumping and gave Gill a reprieve. However, it didn’t cost much as Patel got his man the very next delivery as some turn and bounce had Gill edging to first slip. Cheteshwar Pujara was squared up and bowled as he ran down the track and tried playing against the turn. Patel then got the big fish Virat Kohli for a duck as he had the Indian skipper out LBW. There was a lot of controversy over the dismissal as the umpire deemed it inconclusive whether there it was bat first or pad and ruled it in favour of the Kiwis.

Agarwal stitched a 80-run stand with Shreyas Iyer and it was Patel who broke that as well. Iyer was out on a delivery that went straight on and bounced a touch more and caught the inside-edge before popping up to the wicket-keeper.

Virat Kohli’s dismissal hogs the limelight

Virat Kohli returned to lead India and walked out to bat at 80/2. Ajaz Patel had picked up those two wickets in quick succession. The Indian captain defended his first three balls solidly but on the fourth ball, he was given out LBW. He reviewed it immediately as he looked confident that he had inside-edged it. The UltraEdge replays showed that the bat and ball was in contact together while one replay showed that it was bat first. There was an element of doubt in the third umpire’s mind if it hit the pad first and hence, he deemed it inconclusive to overturn the on-field call. It was a massive decision and it received a lot of flak on social media. This was Kohli’s fourth duck in Test cricket this year.

Mayank Agarwal stands tall with a splendid ton

Mayank Agarwal had gone through a huge lean patch over the last 18 months in Test cricket. He has constantly in and out of the side and in his last 10 Test innings, he got over 20 only once (38 vs Australia at the Gabba). Even in the first Test, he was undone by the Kiwi pacers.

But he batted beautifully in this game. He was patient early on and saw off the initial bursts of the New Zealand pacers. He was 15 off 43 balls before he took heavy toll against the spinners. The Karnataka opener defended superbly and pounced on every single scoring opportunity he had. He struck boundaries consistently and the put the pressure back on the bowlers and the spinners, in particular.

Agarwal watched the other batters crumble against Ajaz Patel and when Kohli fell (80/3), he was 32 off 100 deliveries. He then stitched an 80-run stand for the fourth wicket alongside Shreyas Iyer and he was the dominant partner in that partnership. He counter-attacked beautifully and took India to safe waters. Agarwal notched up his half-century in 119 deliveries and upped the ante in the final session.

The runs and boundaries started flowing and his second fifty came in just 77 deliveries as he helped India go past the 200-run mark. He continued in the same vein and ended the day on an unbeaten 120. He has an unbroken 61-run stand alongside Wriddhiman Saha for the fifth wicket.

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