The start to the inaugural World Test Championship final was a disappointing one, with persistent rain washing out the first day’s play between India and New Zealand at Southampton on Friday. Overnight rain was followed by a few more heavy showers during the day, which meant that play for the day was eventually abandoned in the afternoon. To make up for the lost overs, this Test match can be extended into a sixth day if match referee Chris Broad think it is required.
On Day 2, however, we saw a long day of cricket which was halted by bad light on two occasions. Kiwi captain Kane Williamson won the toss and elected to field first. Unlike India who fielded two spinners in their XI, New Zealand opted for an all-out pace attack.
India openers Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill provided a good start to the team in the first session. The two put up an opening partnership of 62 runs before both of them departed in quick succession. India scored 69 runs in the first session for the loss of two wickets.
The second session saw Cheteshwar Pujara being dismissed for eight runs, before captain Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane steadied the ship. When bad light curtailed Day 2 to just 64.4 overs, Kohli was on 44* and Rahane on 29*. India ended the day at 146 for 3. Play will resume tomorrow at 10.30 am local time, and will be extended by half an hour to make up for the lost overs.
Here we look at the five talking points from day 2 of the World Test Championship final between India and New Zealand.
Team India mourns the death of Milkha Singh
The Indian team was seen wearing black armbands to mourn the passing away of legendary Indian athlete Milkha Singh. One of the greatest Indian sportspersons, Singh died on Friday night at the age of 91 after suffering from Covid19 complications. It was only a few days ago when his wife Nirmal Kaur, former captain of India’s volleyball team, lost her life to the deadly virus.
The legendary athlete, who won gold at the 1958 Commonwealth Games, is also a four-time Asian Games gold medallist. Singh represented India in the 1956 and the 1964 Olympics and in 1959, he was bestowed with the prestigious Padma Shri award.
A good opening stand from Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill
In overcast conditions where the ball was moving around, India’s batting order, especially openers Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill, did a good job on Day 2. What stood out was how Rohit and Gill stood outside the crease to negate the swing from Tim Southee and Trent Boult – New Zealand’s two best swing bowlers who had the chance to make the most of the pitch condition.
The partnership came to an end when Rohit edged one off Kyle Jamieson to Tim Southee at third slip. Soon later, Gill was dismissed by Neil Wagner after pushing a full length delivery away from his body and giving BJ Watling a comfortable catch.
With the 62-run stand, Rohit and Gill went past the 60-run opening partnership between Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul on India’s tour of England in 2018.
New Zealand crawl back into the game
At one time, it seemed like Rohit and Gill would go on to share a 100-run partnership, especially with the Kiwi bowlers not able to find the lines and lengths. But with two back to back wickets, New Zealand found their much needed confidence. India were able to add only 51 runs in 27.3 overs in the afternoon after being at 62- 2 before lunch. In the second session, Colin de Grandhomme bowled three successive maiden overs to the India captain and overall, the Kiwi quicks were more disciplined than in the first session. Kyle Jamieson was the standout bowler who didn’t give much away. India were 120-3 when early tea was taken after bad light stopped play.
Virat Kohli crosses 7,500 Test runs
Cheteshwar Pujara fell to Trent Boult after scoring eight runs in 54 balls, after which Virat Kohli and Vice Captain Ajinkya Rahane steadied the ship for India even in fading light. At stumps after the game was delayed due to poor light, Kohli was on 44 off 124 balls while Rahane was on 29 off 79 deliveries. In the process, Kohli became the sixth Indian batsman to breach the 7500-run mark in Test cricket. The 32 year old is now the joint fourth fastest to 7,500 Test runs with Sunil Gavaskar, having achieved the feat in 154 innings. The list is headed by former India captain Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag, both of whom achieved the feat in 144 innings. The duo is followed on the list by Rahul Dravid with 148 innings.
Pujara gets off the mark after facing 35 deliveries
After two back to back wickets of Rohit and Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara took time to get going, as he always does. He took as many as 35 deliveries to get off the mark, which is not the most number of balls Pujara has taken to open his account. In 2018 against South Africa in Johannesburg, the no. 3 batsman got off the mark in the 54th delivery he faced. In those 80 minutes before scoring his first run, he kept playing out deliveries.
Against New Zealand at Rose Bowl, Pujara got off the mark with a stylish boundary off Wagner. He was eventually trapped leg before wicket on 8 runs (54 balls) by Boult.
Given the conditions, the Indian batsmen played a good brand of cricket on Day 2. But with the Kiwi bowlers having found their momentum back, another exciting day of Test cricket awaits us on Day 3.