Shreyas Iyer left an unbeaten fifty in his debut match in Test. He shared an unbroken century partnership with Ravindra Jadeja as India overcame Kyle Jamieson’s setbacks to score 258 for four on the opening day of the first Test against New Zealand at the Green Park Stadium in Kanpur on Thursday. Iyer, who won the ‘Test cap’ in the absence of some senior players, is stuck at the crease after scoring 75 runs, which is sure to add to the selectors’ headache while selecting the playing XI for the Mumbai Test as regular captain Virat Kohli will then return.
Iyer has faced 136 balls so far and has hit seven fours and two sixes. He has so far added 113 runs for the fifth wicket with Jadeja (50 not out off 100 balls). The day’s play was declared over six overs ago due to bad light. Apart from these two, the innings of opener Shubman Gill (52 off 93 balls) was the center of attraction. Cheteshwar Pujara (26 off 88 balls) and skipper Ajinkya Rahane (35 off 63 balls) failed to play big innings despite good starts while opener Mayank Agarwal (13 off 28 balls) failed to make the most of the opportunity.
The tall pacer Jamieson (3 for 47) again troubled the Indian batsmen. He bowled Gill and Rahane after Agarwal was caught by wicketkeeper Tom Blundell in the morning session. Veteran fast bowler Tim Southee (1 for 43) meanwhile broke Pujara’s focus. The pitch was slow and the ball was staying down on it but it was not getting the required turn, due to which the three New Zealand spinners Ayaz Patel (78 runs in 21 overs), William Somerville (60 runs in 24 overs) and Rachin Ravindra (seven overs) 28 in) had to struggle. Both Gill and Iyer batted freely in front of the spinners.
Iyer looked a bit uncomfortable at first but soon he started sharing runs with his natural batting. He completed his fifty off 94 balls with beautiful cuts and drives against Ravindra. Then it was the turn of Patel and Somerville on whom they hit sixes at long on and midwicket. Jadeja’s two consecutive fours on Jamieson were brilliant. He celebrated in the familiar style after completing his 17th Test fifty off 99 balls. Jadeja has hit six fours in his innings. Gill had put New Zealand’s main spinner Patel on the back foot in the first session with a fine display of his cut and drive but his return to the pavilion in the first over of the second session affected the flow of the Indian innings.
Gill went ahead to play Jamieson’s full length ball defensively but the ball went through his bat and pad and got into the wickets. James Anderson had dismissed him in a similar fashion earlier this year. Gill hit five fours and a six on Patel in his innings. This was a great opportunity for Pujara to end his long wait for a century. He had just tried to open his hand by hitting fours on Jamieson and Patel when the Southee’s delivery on the fifth stump line ended up in Blundell’s gloves kissing his bat. Pujara scored his last Test century in January 2019. He hasn’t reached triple digits in the last 23 Tests and 39 innings and averages 28.78 in the meantime.
The same was the case with Rahane, for whose career two Test matches against New Zealand could prove to be important. There was a time when he seemed to like the Green Park pitch and he would play big innings to secure his place in the team going to South Africa but Jamieson soon broke the illusion. Rahane played on his wickets in an attempt to cut Jamieson’s outgoing ball on the back foot. Just on the first ball, he was saved from getting out due to taking DRS. He hit six fours in his innings. Earlier, Rahane won the toss and elected to bat but India lost Agarwal’s wicket in the eighth over itself.
Gill, who could not play against England due to injury, completed his fourth half-century of his Test career by playing a lucrative shot across the field. He spoiled left-arm spinner Patel’s length with his beautiful cut and drive after being cautious in Southee’s first spell. Gill and Pujara added 61 runs for the second wicket.