India captain Virat Kohli led a combined effort by the batsmen against strong New Zealand bowling, adverse batting conditions and frequent stoppages in the inaugural World Test Championship final at Southampton on Saturday.
After Friday’s first day was washed out without a ball bowled, India had reached 146 for 3 when bad light led the umpires to take the players off the field a little while after Tea. It was the third time bad light had caused a stoppage in play, leading to frustration among fans, especially ones at the Ageas Bowl stadium.
Kohli was 44 not out off 124 balls and Ajinkya Rahane 29 not out, involved in an unbeaten 58-run stand. Kyle Jamieson, Neil Wagner and Trent Boult got one wicket each. Jamieson was fantastic, bowling 14 overs for only 14 runs.
Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill took India to 62-0 after New Zealand captain Kane Williamson won the toss in overcast conditions that assisted his pace attack.
But India lost both of them in quick succession to be 69 for 2 at lunch.
Their position might have been worse had star batsman Kohli been given out caught behind down the legside off left-arm quick Trent Boult on 17.
But amid some on-field confusion, an umpire review led to replays that indicated Kohli had not hit the ball.
Rohit and Gill made a fine start amid New Zealand’s swing and seam, even if a still-wet outfield meant they did not always get full value for their shots.
Sharma confidently clipped the first ball of the match, from Tim Southee, off his pads for three while Gill showed his class by driving Jamieson down the ground for four.
Gill, however, had a nasty moment on 23 when hit flush on the helmet by a Jamieson delivery that leapt off a good length.
Rohit brought up the 50 partnership with a stylish cover-driven four off all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme.
Rohit’s 68-ball innings, featuring six fours, ended when he edged a late-swinging delivery from Jamieson to third slip where Southee held an excellent low catch, diving to his right. Rohit had been disciplined outside off stump through his innings, until that delivery which cost him big.
Gill followed soon afterwards for 28, edging aggressive left-armer Neil Wagner to BJ Watling in the third ball bowled by the left-arm pacer.
It took Cheteshwar Pujara 51 minutes and 36 balls to get off the mark, with his cut four off de Grandhomme greeted by huge cheers from India fans in the crowd.
But, as happened several times during India’s come-from-behind series win in Australia this year, Pujara was hit on the helmet by a bouncer after missing an intended pull off Wagner.
His painstaking eight off 54 balls ended when he was lbw to a Boult inswinger that cut back sharply off the pitch.
But although the run-rate had slowed, there was plenty of time left in a Test where match referee Chris Broad can institute a reserve sixth day to compensate for overs lost to bad weather earlier in the game.
This match, the culmination of two years of series between the leading Test nations, is worth $1.6 million to the winners and $800,000 to the runners-up.
The India team were wearing black armbands Saturday as a mark of respect for Milkha Singh following the national track legend’s death from Covid-19 at the age of 91.
(With AFP inputs)