• Last 10 ov (RR): 37/0 (3.70)
India 258 for 4 (Iyer 75*, Gill 52, Jadeja 50*, Jamieson 3-47) vs New Zealand
Shreyas Iyer scored a debut half-century full of calculated aggression against spin and put on an unbroken 113 for the fifth wicket with Ravindra Jadeja to lift India out of a tricky situation midway through day one and put them in control of the Kanpur Test.
At stumps, India were 258 for 4 with Iyer batting on 75, his last scoring shot of the day a muscular six over midwicket off Will Somerville, which convinced New Zealand to go off for bad light rather than bowl more spin to complete the 90-over requirement for the day. Jadeja, meanwhile, had just reached his 17th half-century in Test cricket.
That India played only five specialist batters, despite missing Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli and Rishabh Pant, was down in part to the confidence they must have had in their replacements – another of whom, Shubman Gill, stroked a smooth 52 earlier in the day – but also the faith they had in Jadeja’s batting ability.
Having come in at 145 for 4, Jadeja showed all the hallmarks of the batter he has become over the last three years or so – clear-headed, precise in his shot selection, and unendingly patient outside off stump – as he batted through a wicketless final session in Iyer’s company.
He needed to be all that, because this wasn’t an easy surface to bat on. The bounce was inconsistent, and the odd ball turned and jumped disconcertingly. Both new balls swung too, and the old one reversed just enough for the quicks to have something to work with through the day.
And it was the quicks who took all four wickets, with Kyle Jamieson leading the way with 3 for 47 and showing exactly why he was preferred over Neil Wagner. Tim Southee went off the field midway through his 11th over to undergo treatment on his right groin muscle, but came back later on and bowled with all his usual guile, though clearly looking less than 100% fit while doing so. Before that he also took the key wicket of Cheteshwar Pujara.
New Zealand went in with three spinners, and while none of them bowled badly, they ended up wicketless after bowling a combined 52 overs, and while Somerville’s gangly, accurate offspin was economical, the left-arm spin of Ajaz Patel and Rachin Ravindra proved expensive. Much of this had to do with the way Gill and Iyer went after them.
Gill took 29 off 28 balls against Ajaz – who could have dismissed him in his very first over had he reviewed a not-out lbw decision from Virender Sharma – punishing marginal errors in length or trajectory with brilliant footwork, both out of the crease and deep into it. A straight-bat back-foot punch off Ajaz, against the turn and to the right of midwicket, was a candidate for shot of the day.
Wasim Jaffer: Always watch out for the full ball while facing Kyle Jamieson
Iyer, meanwhile, began nervily, getting off the mark in Test cricket with a miscued lofted hit that just cleared mid-off running back, and only scoring 17 off 55 before tea. He came out with clear intent to attack the spinners after the break, though, and where Gill’s footwork was marked by how nimbly he moved forward or back, Iyer’s in this phase was all about going sideways. Usually, this was to enable him to make room and play the square cut or late cut – even if it meant exposing all three stumps – or to go inside-out over the covers.
This was breathtaking, edge-of-the-seat stuff, and the debutant batting allrounder Ravindra – whom Kane Williamson was possibly forced to overuse at the start of the third session thanks to Southee’s injury – went for 26 in a four-over spell after tea. When Iyer reached his half-century with a straight-driven single off Southee, he had scored his last 33 runs off just 39 balls.
By then, India were 199 for 4, and looking far more secure than they had done only around an hour before.
A 61-run second-wicket stand between Gill and Pujara had moved India to a solid 82 for 1 at lunch, before Jamieson struck in the first over of the new session. Gill was slow getting forward to defend a nip-backer, and played onto his stumps. Having swung the new ball in both directions in his first spell and nicked off Mayank Agarwal in his fourth over, Jamieson was now showing he could also hit an uneven pitch hard and get the older ball to deviate off it.
Jamieson then caused Pujara discomfort with the short ball, first bruising his right index finger with one that lifted unexpectedly and hit him on the glove, and then packing the leg-side field and hammering the middle of the pitch, causing him to duck and weave uncomfortably, never sure at what pace or height the ball would arrive.
Williamson took Jamieson off after a spell of only four overs, but if it seemed premature, the change worked immediately, with Southee getting one to hold its line in the corridor after having got his previous three balls to shape into the stumps. Forced into playing, Pujara sent a thin edge through to the keeper.
Ajinkya Rahane, short on runs over the last two years and captaining India in the absence of Virat Kohli, then made a fluent, technically accomplished 35 full of crisp back-foot punches through the off side. That shot was a safe one on this pitch because Rahane played it with a vertical bat, but the square cut with the horizontal bat wasn’t quite as foolproof, as he discovered while chopping Jamieson onto his stumps when the ball kept a touch low.
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo