The cricket calendar has been hit again by COVID issues with the Australia vs New Zealand Chappell-Hadlee series postponed indefinitely.
Gritty India batting, led by captain Virat Kohli on 44 not out, has been matched by probing New Zealand bowling in the first, truncated skirmishes of the inaugural World Test Championship final.
India ground their way to 3-146 in 64.4 overs before the second day’s enthralling play was frustratingly cut short by bad light after tea with 33.2 overs remaining. The Rose Bowl floodlights were on for most of Saturday’s play.
The first day was washed out, and more rain is forecast on Days 3 and 4.
New Zealand seamer Kyle Jamieson reckoned neither side had taken control after he’d led the Black Caps’ efforts in the field.
“It’s probably pretty even at the moment. It was a pretty good day of Test cricket,” he said.
“The plan was to stick around outside off and credit to them, they played pretty well. But I think we were able to keep things relatively restricted and grabbed three important wickets as well.”
The final got underway on Saturday after New Zealand won the toss and backed their strengths by leaving out spinner Ajaz Patel and plumping for an all-pace attack plus seam-bowling allrounder Colin de Grandhomme.
The decision to insert India looked good for the overcast conditions and slow outfield, but their batsmen started off with far more authority despite spending most of their build-up in quarantine and missing a warm-up match.
Shubman Gill and Rohit Sharma combined for 62 until the depth of New Zealand’s attack, tuned up by dominating England in two Tests, came through when Jamieson and Neil Wagner took them out late in the first session.
Cheteshwar Pujara took 36 balls to get off the mark and was trapped by Trent Boult on eight, but captain Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane led India to tea and through the 11 overs afterwards.
Kohli had batted for 124 balls, and Rahane was 29 off 79. Their partnership was worth 58.
The concentration of Sharma, who scored 34, and Gill, 28, prevailed against the first-hour swing of Tim Southee and Boult, but they fell in the space of one run in an eventful last half-hour before lunch.
Sharma played two elegant backfoot cover-driven boundaries against de Grandhomme, but Jamieson induced a thick outside edge as Southee made a low two-handed catch at the third slip for the breakthrough.
Wagner lived up to his reputation of picking up wickets early as the left-arm swing bowler found the outside edge of Gill’s bat in his first over to give the Black Caps double delight in the first session at 2-63.
Pujara met lively swing bowling by all five seamers, and taking 36 balls to score his first run was his second-longest wait for a first run in a Test.
Boult bagged Pujara with an inswinger and looked to have Kohli in the same over, edging behind down the leg side on 17. Umpire Richard Illingworth referred it to the TV umpire, who decided Kohli made no contact with the ball.
India wore black armbands in honour of the country’s celebrated sprinter, Milkha Singh, who died at age 91 late Friday after complications from COVID-19.