SOUTHAMPTON: Skipper Virat Kohli led India’s revival and steered his team to 146-3 against New Zealand before bad light stopped play in the weather-marred World Test Championship (WTC) final on Saturday.
Kohli had raised 58 runs with Ajinkya Rahane when the players were forced off in fading light at the Ageas Bowl with only 9.1 overs played in the final session. The India captain, like several of his team mates, stood outside the crease to try to negate any swing and played the moving ball quite late for his unbeaten 44. Rahane, batting on 29, looked cagey initially but gamely hung on to feature in India`s second 50-plus partnership.
“Credit to all the batters, they showed good restraint. We have ended the day very well,” India’s batting coach Vikram Rathour said. “Anything more than 250 will be a reasonable score in these conditions.”
After persistent rain washed out the entire opening day on Friday, New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson unsurprisingly elected to field after winning the toss.
Under an overcast sky, India scored 69 runs but lost both their set openers in an evenly balanced morning session. Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill raised 62 runs for the opening partnership before Kyle Jamieson separated them with a delivery that swung late.
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Rohit, having made a fluent 34, left his bat hanging and Tim Southee dived to his right to pouch the outside edge at third slip.
Neil Wagner was introduced late in the session and the left-arm quick struck with his third delivery, dismissing Gill caught behind for 28.
Cheteshwar Pujara took 36 balls to get off the mark and, like Gill earlier in the match, was smacked on the helmet grill by a rising delivery which sent his neck guard flying. Pujara made eight before Boult swung one back in to trap him lbw.
Kohli and Rahane did not allow their concentration to lapse despite interruptions because of bad light, which also forced an early tea break.
“It is probably pretty even at the moment,” New Zealand quick Jamieson said. “They played really well, put away the bad balls and were patient outside off. We were able to keep things relatively restricted and grab three important wickets.”
Both teams stuck to their strengths with India picking both their spinners — Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja — and New Zealand opting for an all-seam attack.
Only 64.4 overs have been played in the first two days of the weather-hit contest which has a reserve day to make up for lost time.
The one-off match marks the culmination of a two-year cycle of the inaugural WTC, launched in 2019 to create a pinnacle event for Test cricket.