Herald on Sunday
Black Caps make nervy start
Bowlers initially fail to capitalise after Williamson wins toss for WTC final
Adouble breakthrough close to lunch gave New Zealand impetus heading into the afternoon session of the first day of the World Test Championship final, following a nervous, lacklustre start by the bowlers.
Things couldn’t have gone much better for the Black Caps on the first morning — until the cricket started.
Under leaden skies and with the floodlights illuminating the Ageas Bowl, Kane Williamson won the toss and had no hesitation in unleashing his all-seam attack on an Indian lineup more comfortable in hotter, drier climates.
With the brand new Dukes ball promising to swing prodigiously, it was all set up perfectly — then New Zealand’s most experienced bowlers laid an egg for most of the first hour.
New Zealand did eventually dismiss India’s openers but the batting side would have been satisfied with 69-2 at the break given the bowlerfriendly conditions.
Tim Southee went past the edge a few times and Trent Boult occasionally threatened to straighten one into the pads but the bad balls outnumbered the good and it was all a bit gentle.
Rohit Sharma and inexperienced Shubnam Gill were offered enough gifts to keep the scoreboard ticking.
Gill was comfortable enough to advance down the wicket to the seamers, which almost caused his downfall when Kyle Jamieson got one to rise off a length and smash into his grille.
It was Jamieson who turned things
around for his team. He has been successful against India in the past and was head and shoulders above his teammates in every respect in the match’s first session.
It was Jamieson who eventually drew Sharma (34) forward and found the edge of his prodding bat. Southee
had not done a lot to enhance his bowling stats in the morning but his reputation for fine slip fielding grew when he took a stunning catch low to his right.
Given Jamieson’s effectiveness, it was surprising to see Williamson remove him from the attack, even after
a seven-over stint. The wisdom of that decision was immediately rewarded when Neil Wagner kissed the edge of Gill’s bat with just his third ball and BJ Watling, in his final test, took a regulation catch to dismiss the opener for 28.
Cue Wagner’s vein-popping
exhortations and, more than that, a sense that New Zealand had truly arrived for the fight — albeit 90 minutes late.
With India’s most accomplished test batsmen at the crease — Virat Kohli (6) and Cheteshwar Pujara (0) — the match was finely poised.