Southampton, United Kingdom: Southampton, United Kingdom: India captain Virat Kohli held firm in the face of accurate pace bowling as New Zealand fought back 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 120-3 when bad light led the umpires to take the players off for an early tea on the second day — a decision greeted by jeers from the crowd given the floodlights were on full beam.
Kohli was 35 not out and Ajinkya Rahane 13 not out, with towering New Zealand paceman Kyle Jamieson having miserly figures of 1-14 in 12 overs.
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 three wickets either side of lunch to be 88-3.
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.
The openers’ form was all the more impressive given this was India’s first Test since March whereas only last week New Zealand completed a 1-0 series win over England with an eight-wicket victory at Edgbaston.
But 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.
Gill followed soon afterwards for 28, edging aggressive left-armer Neil Wagner to BJ Watling in what the New Zealand wicketkeeper has said will be his last match before retirement.
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 was 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.