Vijay, Pujara shine but India squander advantage

Last Updated: Thu, Sep 22, 2016 18:51 hrs

The time had come and the venue was Green Park, Kanpur. On a historic day, India embarked on their long journey of 13 Test matches at home as skipper Virat Kohli won the toss and elected to bat first in India's 500th Test match.

A century stand between Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara set the ball rolling before New Zealand seized momentum to reduce India to 291 for the loss of nine wickets at stumps on Day one.

From 154 for the loss of one wicket, India slipped dramatically as Trent Boult and Mitchell Santner shared six wickets among themselves to give New Zealand a slight edge.

The morning session saw India dominate as KL Rahul with an aggressive approach set the tone, Murali Vijay's ability to judge, leave and play late was outstanding and Cheteshwar Pujara's footwork against spin was simply brilliant.

But post lunch saw a change in script as a rejuvenated New Zealand side hunted in packs with skipper Kane Williamson marshalling his troops with great tactical acumen.

On the back of a superb Duleep Trophy with scores of 166 and 256*, Pujara took confident strides. His game was impeccable especially against spinners but on 62, Pujara spooned back a drive straight into the hands of Santner.

New Zealand got an opening and they capitalized on it as skipper Virat Kohli top-edged a Neil Wagner bouncer that Ish Sodhi swallowed at the backward square-leg boundary.

While the Kiwis celebrated, Vijay on the other hand was composed and watchful. He left the deliveries well and played a chanceless innings until Ish Sodhi's leg spin jolted India just at the stroke of Tea. In the penultimate over before Tea, Vijay batting on 65 opted for a late cut only to nick to wicketkeeper BJ Walting.

The set batsmen were gone, and the onus was now on Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma to do the rebuilding job. Just when some hopes of a strong first innings total were boosted, Mark Craig dismissed Rahane as Green Park went quiet.

Rahane failed to get to the pitch of the delivery and inside-edged to the man at short leg. With five down, it was time for Rohit Sharma to shoulder the responsibility of building a healthy first innings lead. After some nervous moments, Rohit along with R Ashwin kept the opposition at bay with a 52-run partnership. However, an impatient Rohit skipped down the track to gift his wicket.

With Rohit's dismissal, India's lower order was exposed with the ball just three overs old. It was time for some serious fast bowling as Trent Boult steamed in to castle Wriddhiman Saha.

R Ashwin, reached 40 to become India's highest run-getter in 2016. But, his joy was short lived as Ashwin nicked to gully and Mohammed Shami was cleaned up by Boult. From a dominating position, India slipped to 277/9 and squandered the advantage of posting a dominating first innings total.

India began the day on a brilliant note, but the Kiwis waited patiently for an opening. When it came, they had the ammunition to trigger a downfall.

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