India could not have asked for a better start from their openers, Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill in overcast bowler-friendly conditions and after being put in by the New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson on Day 2 of the World Test Championship final in Southampton. The Indian opening duo mixed caution with controlled aggression and gave India its best start in 10 years and 29 innings in England.
While New Zealand bowlers were guilty of either bowling too short or too full, the Indian openers showed tremendous application and courage in difficult conditions in Southampton. They left a number of deliveries outside the off stump but at the same time whenever the ball was overpitched were equal to the task and dispatched it to the boundary. While Rohit played brilliantly off the back-foot punching a number of delightful drives through the cover and extra-cover region, Gill showed the straight face of the bat and played some sublime shots down the ground on the on-side. He was also quick on his feet and played the pull shot handsomely.
The striking feature of the partnership was their deliberate ploy to stand outside the crease thereby negating the swing generated by both Tim Southee and Trent Boult which unsettled the New Zealand opening bowlers.
The Rohit-Gill pair fell just one short of breaking the 63-run first-wicket partnership stand set by Gautam Gambhir and Abhinav Mukumd at Lord’s in 2011 - which remains the highest opening wicket partnership for India in four tours of England. Overall, it was the joint third-highest opening wicket stand for an Indian pair in England since 2007 - such has been the plight of the touring Indian team in England during this period.
The Rohit-Gill pair overtook the 60-run partnership put together by KL Rahul-Shikhar Dhawan in both the innings at Trent Bridge on India’s last tour in 2018 - it was the highest stand for the opening wicket for India of the tour (in 10 innings). They also went past the highest opening stand of the tour in 2014 - Dhawan had paired with Murali Vijay and added 49 in the series opener at Nottingham.