After being whitewashed in the ODI series, India continued to search for their fortune in Test format against New Zealand as the visitors ended a rain-curtailed day 1 of the first Test at 122-5.
After winning the toss, the hosts invited India to bat first on a green top at Wellington and the decision proved to be right as the Kiwi bowlers made the ball talk right from the beginning. India struggled to find a way to weather the storm and lost Prithvi Shaw (16), Cheteshwar Pujara (11) and Virat Kohli (2) cheaply. It was only in the second session where India put up some fight courtesy the unbeaten partnership of Ajinkya Rahane (38*) and Rishabh Pant (10*) to stabilise the Indian innings. No play was possible after tea as rain interrupted and play was called off for the day.
Let's have a look at the three talking points from the Day 1.
#1 The Indian batting collapse
Being put in to bat first in swinging conditions, the Indian openers Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal needed to resist the New Zealand bowlers from taking their wickets in the first session. The task was challenging, but saving wickets was important. However, India suffered a batting collapse right from the beginning which allowed New Zealand to be in a strong position in the match.
India lost Prithvi Shaw (16), Cheteshwar Pujara (11) and Virat Kohli (2) for just 40 runs in the first session itself as they could not read the swinging deliveries of the New Zealand fast bowlers. Mayank Agarwal (34) and Ajinkya Rahane (38*) added 48 runs for the fourth wicket to give India a ray of hope. The dismissal of the former and Hanuma Vihari (7) in the second session made things worse for India.
India lost half of their side in just 41.1 overs before rain interrupted the day's play. It was quite disappointing considering how good a home Test season India had a few months ago. India now hope to score runs on day 2, banking on the unbeaten Rahane and Pant.
#2 The unplayable New Zealand fast bowlers
The New Zealand fast bowlers had a sublime day at Wellington as they made the most of the swinging conditions. Tim Southee (1/27) provided New Zealand the first breakthrough in the fifth over in the form of Prithvi Shaw. Trent Boult (1/44) too looked in fine form and took the wicket of Mayank Agarwal who was looking in good touch.
But it was debutant Kyle Jamieson (3/38) who stole the show with the red cherry. Jamieson had a memorable ODI debut against India earlier this month and continued his momentum in the Test format too as he sent Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli - the two pillars of Indian batting back to the pavilion in his consecutive overs to give New Zealand the upper hand in the first session. In the second session, he dismissed Hanuma Vihari to increase the number of his scalps in the match to three.
After dominating day 1, the New Zealand fast bowlers would look to run through the Indian lower-order to wrap the Indian innings for a below-par total.
#3 India preferred Pant over Saha behind the stumps
The match made headlines even before the first ball was bowled courtesy the selection surprise by the Indian team management. The experienced wicket-keeper Wriddhiman Saha had to sit out as India opted for Rishabh Pant in the playing XI.
Everyone was eager to know who of the two will stand behind the stumps in the first Test. While Pant had a great overseas record in Tests, Saha's fine glovework made his case even stronger in conditions where the ball moves a fair bit. And looking at the fact that India preferred KL Rahul as a wicket-keeper in the white ball games earlier in this tour, it was highly likely that Saha would be donning the gloves in the first Test.
However, Saha was unfortunate to find himself out of the playing XI as India went with Pant. While Saha did nothing wrong to be axed, Pant would look to make the most of this opportunity after his exclusion from ODIs and T20Is.
As the match progresses, it would be interesting to see whether Pant can make his mark in the match or India would once again go back to Saha in the next game.