As India took on New Zealand in the first match in Kanpur, fans were a little scared. Reason: KL Rahul was ruled out of the two-match series and that meant hosts would be without their usual top three in KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli. They were up against the WTC champions after all, they could push India was the common sentiment. Meanwhile, none of this sort happened at Green Park as Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer and Ravindra Jadeja scored fifties. There was a lot happening. Here are the top five talking points.
Shreyas Iyer Debut Fifty: What a turnaround for the Mumbaikar who was languishing in a hospital bed a few months ago. Iyer had injured his shoulder against England earlier this year and it looked it pretty bad even on TV! But not only he recovered, he recovered well enough to make a Test debut against New Zealand. Although, fortune played its part as KL Rahul was ruled out, and Iyer made the most of it as he remained unbeaten for 75 off 136 balls when the stumps was called on Day 1. He was very good against the spinners using his feet to the advantage, and not for a single time it seemed that he was about to play an impulsive shot. He was in complete control right from the start. His cool, calm demanour only adding to his growing aura. At some point, even Kanpur crowd became his fan, chanting: “Iyer bhai sexy.”
Kyle Jamieson Makes Merry: You usually don’t see a seamer (outside the subcontinent) making an instant impact on a dead pitch as Kanpur. But Jamieson had one advantage: his height and he put it to good use, extracting sharp bounce. He also moved the ball away from the right-hander (see Mayank Agarwal dismissal). He was having a tough time in the middle after bowling three no-balls and some of his deliveries were also called wides. But like a champion, he didn’t let it bother him. After accounting for Agarwal and Shubman Gill, he dismissed India skipper Ajinkya Rahane and finished with figures of 3/47.
Shubman Gill Slams Fifty: Shubman Gill showed tremendous maturity as the ball was moving around initially. He saw Mayank Agarwal losing his wicket to a perfect outswinger, and changed tack to become more conservative. But eventually in Pujara he found a stable partner, a partner who would allow him to take risks. Once the initial hour was done, the batter took on Ajaz Patel; moreover, by the time Lunch was called on, he had already reached his fifty. And when it looked like he would make it big, he lost his focus and his off stump to Kyle Jamieson. The lunch break perhaps leading to his downfall.
Ajinkya Rahane Fails, Again: Before the game began, all media chatter was about how India skipper was struggling to score, but he nonchalantly replied this: “I am not concerned about my form, I just think about contributing for the team, it is not always scoring a hundred. I always put the team first.”
On Thursday in Kanpur, he looked like talking the talk for the most part of his innings until the moment he chopped one back to his stumps from Jamieson. One can’t help but notice that Rahane was probably dealt a harsh blow by his own fate. The ball kept low and he never saw it coming as the previous two balls from Jamieson behaved normally. He survived the initial path and then lost his wicket after a well made 67-ball 35. Perhaps that won’t cut with his critics who want a hundred from ‘Jinks.’
Kiwi Spinners Fail on Impact: A lot was riding on Kiwi spinners and boy, didn’t they let their team down? Kane Williamson had made it very clear that they will field at least two spinners in Green Park provided that it was on slower side. Such was his urgency to let one of them bowl in Kanpur, that he put on Ajaz Patel as early as sixth over. Unfortunately, he bombed and so did the other spinner Will Somerville. Both gave away 138 runs and picked up no wickets at all. This helped the hosts resurrect after being reduced to 145/4. The duo leaked runs on a pitch tailor-made for slow-ball bowlers. This eventually helped release the pressure built up by some good seam bowling and India posted a total of 258/4 by close of play.
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