As rain finally relented and allowed the teams to start their quest for World Test Championship (WTC) title on Saturday (June 19), we take a look at some of the important points from Day 2 in Southampton where India battled hard after being put into bat upon losing the toss.
India-New Zealand WTC final Day 2 Talking Points
A surprisingly wavered start for New Zealand
Coming into the final in Southampton, New Zealand’s emerged as the most in-control bowling attack through the World Test Championship (WTC). They’ve been one of the most disciplined sides in the league’s inaugural cycle, with an economy rate of only 2.85. Their bowlers don’t give away a thing. They are at you all day, relentlessly.
But the first spells that Trent Boult and Tim Southee delivered were in stark contrast to those traits, as they looked anxious and sprayed the ball around against Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill. While there was understandably less swing on offer at the beginning because the lacquer hadn’t yet worn off, whatever little there was Southee and Boult didn’t surprisingly control it that well.
It was the kind of respite India needed in cold, hazy and overcast conditions on a surface meant for fast bowlers to trouble the batters. The Indians could race to 41/0 in 11 overs and ended the first hour without any hiccups.
Rohit, Gill show good technical acumen
While the Kiwi bowlers were undeniably not at their best in the first hour, it would be unfair on both Rohit and Gill to look past their showing. The Indian openers were willing to apply themselves and showed good technical acumen.
Gill, who had faced questions over his approach and urgency at the crease after failures against England at home, batted with control and clarity. But it was Rohit, who stood out among the two, displaying the kind of discipline outside off that isn’t associated with him.
It was Rohit’s litmus Test as an opener – doing the job at the top for the first time in England and that too the WTC final – and he came close to nailing it.
Both Rohit and Gill, while confronting the ball on the frontfoot to try and cover for the movement, made sure they still played the ball late and take advantage if the bowler indeed fell into their trap and dropped it short.
But the Kiwis ultimately bounced back
There was an air of surrealness to the kind of start India had. They were receiving hit-me balls from the Kiwis when they would not have expected and breathing comfortably at the crease. It was going against logic that so often brutally comes to define cricket matches.
That, ultimately happened after the first hour when New Zealand got the chance to sit back, relax and revisit their ways, which is to stick to their guns, consistently putting the ball in the right areas and force errors out of the opposition batsmen.
Once back to their usual self, the Kiwis were rewarded with the wickets of Rohit and Gill, who couldn’t hold their ground long after regular maidens and were dismissed caught behind. While Rohit (34) got out reaching for one that Kyle Jamieson (1/14) delivered from wide of the crease, Gill’s innings ended as he nicked one going across him from Neil Wagner (1/28) in his very first over.
Trent Boult soon got into his act as well, dismissing Cheteshwar Pujara (8) just when he had looked like getting in after. The 54th ball of Pujara’s stay saw Boult jag one back into him sharply and pin him in front of the stumps to have the umpire raise his finger. Pujara’s innings and his dismissal would once again lead to question marks over his methods.
How good is Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli walked in when Kiwis had just gone back to their best with the ball and the Indian skipper responded quite brilliantly to the challenge. In difficult conditions, facing an unrelenting attack, with multiple stops and starts, Kohli produced an innings of great restraint and discipline, not once playing a stroke in anger or frustration, recognising the value of his wicket as much as the situation and the occasion.
While the template was the same that gave him immense success on the last trip – stance outside the crease, looking to force the bowler to drop it short, cover for the swing by playing as late as possible and avoiding that big-booming cover-drive unless right to the pitch of it – here Kohli just looked more convinced about his ways and only tightened up on all fronts.
As per ESPNcricinfo’s control measure, Kohli’s was 87% through his knock of 44* off 124 balls till the stumps were called – a commendable effort given the conditions and the kind of bowling he faced. Kohli could get out early tomorrow and talks around his ‘lack of hundreds’ may resurface, but this is already an innings worth hailing for the sheer ability and skill level he possesses.
India 146/3 (Virat Kohli 44*, Rohit Sharma 34; Trent Boult 1/32, Neil Wagner 1/28) versus New Zealand