Midway along the nets session, Virat Kohli attempted the most uncharacteristic of Virat Kohli strokes – a reverse paddle of Kuldeep Yadav. The Indian skipper rarely resorts to such cheeky strokes and he made an utter mess of it, entirely missing the length and getting beaten by the wrong ‘un. Besides the ball was too short for the shot.
“Replay please,” shouted Kuldeep in jest. But Kohli clearly didn’t see the funny side of it. He just stared back at the bowler in anger. And it was not like the skipper was being frivolous, trying something fancy for fun. He was all intensity and focus and kicked the turf in anger.
However, Kohli was in a strangely experimental mood. A little later, he tried a ramp off Shardul Thakur’s shortish ball, but missed the trajectory completely. Then he tried an upper cut off Jasprit Bumrah, not making any connection. He then backed away and tried a slash. A futile slash.
Back to the usual stuff – firm drives and watertight forward defensive. But it didn’t last long, as he again tried to manufacture horizontal-bat strokes. A few pulls came off, a few others took his top edge.
It was so unusual of Kohli, who generally sticks to his orthodox game in the nets. Maybe, he couldn’t keep aloof of the inconsequential nature of the match. Maybe, it was out of frustration. Or maybe, he’s plotting for a different kind a Kohli innings on Tuesday.
— BCCI (@BCCI) February 10, 2020
Rishabh Pant generally vents out his frustration in the nets. During the Test against South Africa in Pune, after being overlooked for Wriddhiman Saha in the first Test, he slogged almost every ball out of the ground. Three times, the ball was lost. But here, having not played a single game, he was surprisingly restrained so much so that he left more deliveries than he played.
To those on the stumps, he would merely thrust forth or hang back and defend. Even to Kuldeep Yadav, he was content mostly defending.
A slightly worried Kuldeep asked him: “Kal tu Test match khel raha hain kya?” Pant fell half into the bait. He shimmied down the track to Kuldeep’s next ball, seemingly shaping for the big heave, but at the last moment changed his mind and decided to defend. But the very last ball he faced, off Bumrah, Pant cut loose – stepping out and bludgeoning him through the covers.
Wind the deciding factor
New Zealand’s batting coach Matthew Horne has a piece of advice for Henry Nicholls. “Please don’t try to sweep fine on the ground.”
Why not? Nicholls is not only a good executioner of the short but also shorter square boundaries could yield a better harvest. But Horne reasons: “It’s not easy with the wind around. There’s always some drift and you could completely miss the length.” The Bay Oval, even in the afternoon with the sun blazing down, saw such a strong wind that the advertising hoardings were all duly grounded.
Horne is not the only one bothered about the wind and ground dimensions. So was Shardul Thakur, who hasn’t had the best of times of late (140 runs conceded in the last two games). “If you see, their batsmen use the wind and the short side. Even during the fifth T20, their batsmen were trying to hit with the wind. I feel that in the ODI too, their approach will be similar.”
Even Tim Southee claims it’s difficult to master the wind after all these years. “Very difficult. You have to make the adjustments on the feet.”
Local lads check in
Trent Boult is recovering from a broken right hand. Neil Wagner is not considered a limited-over player. They had no business at the nets. But both, settled in Mount Maunganui, not only dropped in at the nets but also bowled more than the regular bowlers. Boult, his right-arm wrapped in a black bandage, was not at full tilt, but swung the ball appreciably in and away from the right-hander. He had Williamson in a fair deal of trouble, making him chop on to the stumps twice as well as beating him a couple of times.
Wagner typically seared in and relentlessly pounded the back-of-length area, hustling batsmen with pace. And he nearly hit Henry Nicholls on his elbow. Injury ravaged New Zealand might be, but they nonetheless have a luxurious stock of net bowlers.
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