The cricket calendar has been hit again by COVID issues with the Australia vs New Zealand Chappell-Hadlee series postponed indefinitely.
India opener Mayank Agarwal has hit a gritty hundred to rescue the hosts after New Zealand left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel had put them in a spot of bother with three quick wickets on the weather-hit first day of the second and final Test.
Agarwal was left unbeaten on 120 after completing his fourth Test hundred on Friday to help India reach 4-221 at stumps with wicketkeeper-batter Wriddhiman Saha keeping him company on 25 not out at the Wankhede Stadium.
Mumbai-born Patel, whose parents immigrated to New Zealand in 1996, picked up all four wickets on a track that aided the spinners as he finished with figures of 4-73.
After the first session was wiped out due to a wet outfield, Agarwal and Shubman Gill gave their side a solid start with an opening stand of 80 following captain Virat Kohli’s decision to bat having winning the toss.
Patel gave New Zealand the breakthrough by dismissing Gill for 44 when the batter edged a delivery to the lone slip.
The 33-year-old Patel returned in his next over to dismiss Cheteshwar Pujara and Kohli before they had opened their accounts, much to the disappointment of the few hundred fans present at the ground, which overlooks the Arabian Sea.
Kohli, who returned to the side to lead India after being rested for the three-match Twenty20 series and the first Test in Kanpur, reviewed the leg before wicket decision unsuccessfully and trudged off after a chat with the on-field umpires.
Television replays were inconclusive in showing if he had hit the ball before Patel’s delivery struck his pad.
From 80 for no loss, India were reduced to 3-80 and it was left to Agarwal and Shreyas Iyer, who made a dream Test debut in Kanpur with a first-innings 105 followed by a crucial 65 in the second, to launch the fightback for the hosts.
The duo added 80 for the fourth wicket to rebuild the innings before Iyer fell on 18 to become Patel’s fourth scalp.
The dismissal brought Agarwal and Saha together and the pair defied New Zealand’s bowlers for the rest of the day with an unbroken partnership of 61.
A square-driven four off seamer Daryl Mitchell took Agarwal to three figures, leaving the 30-year-old to leap and punch the air to celebrate his first Test ton since he scored a career-best 243 against Bangladesh in 2019.
The right-hander hit 14 fours and four sixes in his knock.
Both sides had been dealt injury blows before the Test with the tourists losing captain Kane Williamson to an elbow problem while the hosts were without Ajinkya Rahane, who led the side in Kanpur in Kohli’s absence, Ravindra Jadeja and Ishant Sharma.
The opening Test had ended in a thrilling draw with New Zealand’s last pair hanging on in the final session to deny the hosts victory.