Hanuma Vihari’s century and the experienced campaigner Cheteshwar Pujara’s 92 were the glorious spots in a dreadful batting display by India on the first day of their practice match versus New Zealand XI. All the three preferred openers — Mayank Agarwal (1), Prithvi Shaw (0) and Shubman Gill (0) — all three fell cheaply to the seam and swing test. With captain Virat Kohli opting for an intensive practice session over the practice match, India could only succeed only 263.
What would worry the Indian team management was the failure of all the three openers. Shaw and Gill were undone by the extra bounce while Agarwal failed to counter to seam movement.
New Zealand pacer Scott Kuggeleijn (3/40) got the ball to rear up awkwardly from length during his first spell and Shaw’s dismissal was the ugliest one. Kuggeleijn, who was hitting the deck hard, got one into Shaw’s rib-cage leaving the batsman in no position to duck. The eyes were not on the ball with the bat face closed.
The awkward hit ballooned up and was taken by Rachin Ravindra at short leg. Agarwal, who has been in an awful form since the ODI series, then edged an away passing ball to keeper Dane Cleaver back of the stumps. Another classic Test match dismissal was Gill, who was given the no.4 slot in absence of skipper Kohli.
Ajinkya Rahane (18) was out by the end of the first hour, edging one to the slips before Vihari and Pujara stemmed the rot and got a 195-run stand. once the spinners were in operation, Pujara pulled Ish Sodhi over long leg for a six while Vihari also hit three down the ground off left-arm spinner Ravindra.
Pujara was finally out in the final session trying to hook Gibson even as Vihari got to the three-figure mark. India lost the last six wickets for 30 runs but what stuck out like a sore thumb was another shot selection by Rishabh Pant when he tried an ugly hoick off Ish Sodhi’s bowling only to be caught by the man at extra cover.
Not getting a single match in the limited-overs series must have dented Pant’s confidence as he threw away his wicket when he could have scored a good 35 to 40 runs without any pressure.