Pujara, Rahane save India the blushes against New Zealand at Eden Gardens
A promising 141-run partnership between Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane was bookended by inspiring bowling efforts from New Zealand as India finished the first day of the second Test at 239/7 in 86 overs.cricket Updated: Sep 30, 2016 20:21 IST
A promising 141-run partnership between Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane was bookended by inspiring bowling efforts from New Zealand as India finished the first day of the second Test at 239/7 in 86 overs.
Considering India were 46/3 in the 22nd over after winning the toss for the seventh consecutive time at home, it was a satisfactory finish on a pitch that assisted movement, spin and bounce.
Pujara again missed out on a well-deserved century after strapping down to wear the bowlers thin with a 219-ball vigil. The message sent out by him was loud and clear --- he might be slow but India can’t do without his boring but effective resistance.
That resistance --- highlighted by a wicketless post-lunch session that produced 79 runs --- seemed missing earlier when India looked inexplicably hurried to impose themselves on the visitors.
Virat Kohli chased a wide delivery from Trent Boult and ended up almost slicing the ball to Tom Latham at gully. With that dismissal, Kohli now aggregates 87 in six innings since his double century at Antigua. Murali Vijay got out to possibly the ball of the day from Matt Henry. After repeatedly beating his edge, Henry finally induced one with a delivery that Vijay had to play. But an open and shut case now is Shikhar Dhawan’s future, at least at home.
Despite Gautam Gambhir breathing heavily down his neck, Dhawan didn’t show an iota of resolve to carve his place after finally getting a chance to open. All New Zealand required was a back of a length delivery from Henry that Dhawan, trying to cut, played on to his stumps.
Not only is his brief comeback disappointing, it also now prompts the question why Dhawan should be given another chance in India where he hasn’t scored even a fifty since the 187 on debut in Mohali three years ago.
Had it not been for Pujara’s grit and Rahane’s flowing strokes in a classy innings of 77, India could have wound up in greater trouble. Pujara was scratchy at first and picky with his shots. That 68 out of his 87 runs came in boundaries indicates how much Pujara was content staying in his crease.
Rahane was far more enterprising, running 19 singles and seven twos apart from 11 boundaries that forced New Zealand to spread out their field.
The visitors though never looked outplayed. Ross Taylor --- standing in for Kane Williamson who was ruled out due to illness --- kept New Zealand in the hunt by cleverly rotating his spinners with the pacers. Pujara finally fell for it when Neil Wagner lured him into a drive that went straight to Martin Guptill at short cover.
Rahane departed 13 runs later, trapped leg-before by Jeetan Patel. The previous over from Patel saw Rohit Sharma failing to gauge his bounce and edging him to Latham at short-leg.
In a matter of eight overs, India threw away the initiative they had gained so painstakingly. The first day’s damage though wasn’t limited to Rahane. R Ashwin --- in the middle of a good patch with the bat --- was snapped by Henry in a hostile spell of new-ball bowling in partnership with Boult under lights.
Wridhhiman Saha gave the crowd something to cheer about with a huge six off Patel before that but Boult quickly subdued him in the next over with a few short deliveries. Saha though recovered from Boult’s shakeup with a couple of boundaries that ensured India collected 103 runs in the last session at the cost of four wickets.