New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson introduced Mitchell Santner into the attack as early as the ninth over of the innings. The ball was still hard and new, the shine of the red cherry was intact. Indian openers Murali Vijay and KL Rahul collected seven runs with ease off his first six deliveries.
Santner took mark for his second over of the day and, again, Vijay easily took a single to give strike to Rahul. Rahul, however, was in a different zone early in the morning session. The right-hander didn’t shy away from playing his shot and he did the same against Santner.
Rahul swept, and swept big for the first maximum of the innings. Clearly early signs. Early signs of what’s to come in the series, and India’s long season featuring 13 home Tests. What happened next, however, is something which needs immediate attention.
Santner pushed his length back, rushed one through, which turned out to be quicker through the air and Rahul, rooted at the crease, could only offer a faint nick to Wattling behind the stumps. Did the delivery deserve a wicket? No. Could Rahul have done better? Yes.
Not only Rahul, but even others. Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Murali Vijay got out playing shots they shouldn’t have. Kohli went for one pull too many, Vijay cut too close to his body while Rohit did what he does best – throw his wicket away.
Kohli-led India have faced a lot of criticism in the manner they play spin. The same core group was tested against South Africa, even by the likes of Dean Elgar. Similar scenes unfolded in England when a part-timer in Moeen Ali kept our batsmen guessing.
Guessing we guess is not the right word. If Day 1 is closely watched, not once did New Zealand spinners bowl that ‘wow’ delivery. The odd one did excite everyone with the turn and grip, but nothing alarming or threatening.
Santner stuck to his spot but he too was guilty of being erratic with his lengths. Same applies to leggie Ish Sodhi. A couple of good balls then plenty of scoring balls. Apart from Mark Craig, the offie, no New Zealand spinner stuck to a decent line. Craig operated in a nice channel just outside the batsman’s off and it worked for him when Ajinkya Rahane was out bat-pad cheaply.
It was an eventful day which belonged to New Zealand because India didn’t seem too keen to keep it in their kitty. Needless shots, lack of stability in the middle order and a fine closing spell by Trent Boult gave the visitors a very hard-fought leading edge. They played catch for half of the day, but when their turn came they ensured to make it count.