Wellington: Kyle Jamieson would likely have not played this match if Neil Wagner – away on paternity leave – had been available. On his first – rain-curtailed – day of Test cricket, though, the 6’8″ fast bowler might have left an indelible mark on the Test and the series with the wickets of Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Hanuma Vihari. Asked to bat first, India were reduced to 122 for 5 by tea, despite the fact that New Zealand were not great with the new ball. No play was possible post the tea break due to rain.
The start to the day was nice and bright with New Zealand inviting India to bat on a surface where the thick grass wore a brown look. Trent Boult and Tim Southee were not always on the mark with the new ball, but the introduction of Jamieson changed the proceedings. The awkward bounce from his height proved to be the point of difference as it sent batsmen back.
Prithvi Shaw got off to an aggressive start, but when Southee got it right, Shaw was squared up by a plum half-volley as his feet didn’t go towards the ball. Mayank Agarwal and Pujara then put in close to an hour of classic Test-match batting, respecting the conditions and playing only at balls close to them. With the two main bowlers off after 10 overs, India looked in good shape at 31 for 1. Except that Jamieson was yet to announce himself.
Bowling with the wind, Jamieson immediately found disconcerting bounce from the slow surface. In his next over, he had Pujara following a shortish ball, which is unusual for the India No. 3. In the third, he bowled the dream ball: late swing against the angle, extra bounce, and the edge taken for a rare Pujara caught-behind dismissal.
These dismissals are not rare with Kohli, but you have to get him early or he hurts you really badly. The welcome from Jamieson to Kohli was in fact so high it was called a wide. In his next over, he tried the one-two of short ball followed by the full one twice. On the first occasion, he got too straight and got picked away for a couple. On the next occasion, he bowled a wide length ball, which some might argue is the perfect channel for Kohli first up. Kohli followed it, and arguably his weight was slightly back, mindful of that bounce. And he nicked it to first slip, where Ross Taylor nearly dropped him, holding on with his fingertips.
Agarwal and Ajinkya Rahane now looked to bat with visibly more urgency. Perhaps he felt comfortable with his acclimatisation because Agarwal now began to play away from his body. Two such shots flew between the three slips and gully. Rahane, though, looked comfortable, walking at the bowlers and driving and nudging if the length was short. For Agarwal, the lunch break came at the right time because he seemed to be racing ahead of himself.
Post lunch, with the ball doing less, New Zealand knew they were in for some hard work. What worked for them was the slowness of a moist surface, which meant they could control the flow of runs. After a short spell from Southee, Boult was asked to bowl into the wind, and he produced a wicket immediately. Agarwal, well set now, didn’t account for the sponginess and slowness of the surface and went into a swivel-pull too soon, top-edging to long leg.
Just after the drinks break, Jamieson struck another blow with a repeat of the Pujara delivery, but not before having sent Hanuma Vihari deep into his crease with his extra bounce. By now, Rahane had shelved the aggressive game and began to bat solidly. The bowlers tried to tempt him often, but he kept playing the ball late and with soft hands. Even he was nearly undone by a mean Jamieson bouncer, taking his eyes off and throwing his bat up in self-defence, but he was lucky the ball lobbed to safety.
From a quick start of 17 off 28, Rahane went to tea at 38 off 122. Rishabh Pant and Rahane had added 21 for the sixth wicket, but New Zealand would be pleased with the lid imposed on the scoring rate.
Brief Scores: India 1st innings: 122 for 5 (Rahane 38*, Agarwal 34, Jamieson 3-38) v New Zealand