Kanpur: India frittered away a solid start as a middle-order collapse saw them reduced to 291 for 9 on the opening day of the first cricket Test against New Zealand despite half-centuries from Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara, here on Thursday.
After electing to bat in the historic 500th Test, India were comfortably placed at 154 for riding on 112-run second wicket stand between Vijay (65) and Pujara (62). However a disciplined bowling effort complemented by some inept shot selection by middle and lower order saw four wickets for 16 runs after the second new ball was taken.
Rohit Sharma (35) once again got a start only to throw it away at the fag end of the day. Ravichandran Ashwin was well set before being dismissed to a brilliant delivery from Trent Boult.
While left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner (3/77) rocked the top-order, it was Boult, who looked menacing with the second new ball finishing with figures of 3/57 in 17 overs. All his wickets during the last 10 overs of the day. Ravindra Jadeja was batting on 11 at the end of the day with Umesh Yadav (8).
The Green Park track was not a rank turner on the first day itself but it did offer some assistance to the spinners. The Kiwis fielded three spinners Santner, offie Mark Craig and leg-break bowler Ish Sodhi, who bowled 59 out of the 90 overs.
India were comfortably placed at 154 for 1 after losing KL Rahul (32) but lost four wickets in gap of 15 overs, spread over two sessions to get into the backfoot. Rohit (35) and Ashwin (40) combined for a fighting 52 run stand for the sixth wicket.
In an important phase in his Test career, Rohit was expected to fire and he showed some early promise before trying to chip one off Santner over mid-on but was holed out by Sodhi.
The other two Indian batsmen who played poor shots were skipper Virat Kohli (9) who fell for Neil Wagner's short ball mistiming a pull-shot.
Boult, in his final spell of the day, got rid of Ashwin. Wicket-keeper Wriddhiman Saha (0) and Mohammed Shami (0) nearly polishing off the Indian tail. Wriddhiman and Shami got identical deliveries that jagged back in from three quarter length breaching their defence.
Ashwin got one that was full and kicked up from good length as he gloved it to Ross Taylor at wide second slip.
It was left-arm spinner Santner, who removed prodigious Rahul in the morning session and later broke the second-wicket stand between Vijay and Pujara to open the window for his side.
New Zealand's Mitchell Santner celebrates the wicket of India's Rohit Sharma during their first test match in Kanpur (AP Photo)
Wagner bowled his heart out in the second session and was rewarded with the prized wicket of Indian captain Kohli. Five minutes before the tea, Vijay tried to cut a shortish delivery from leg-break bowler Sodhi but managed a faint edge, taken by stumper BJ Watling. Vijay was mostly patient from one end, treating the balls on merit.
After his Caribbean sojourn was marred by injury and the only Test match he got a chance to bat didn't go well, it was a good opportunity for the Tamil Nadu opener, who would rue the chance of having missed out on a big score after getting set.
New Zealand began the third session with Sodhi and Mark Craig operating in tandem. Rohit punished Sodhi with a six over the deep mid-wicket that raised India's 200 and followed it up with a boundary on the off-side.
Craig (1/59) though saw the back of Rahane (18 off 36) getting him caught by Tom Latham at forward short leg. Spin all-rounder Ashwin turned to be a solid support for Rohit Sharma, who himself survived a confident leg before appeal from Craig.
Ashwin was comfortable playing both pacers and spinners, driving elegantly before being undone by Boult. Each and every Kiwi bowler was among wickets, highlighting a team effort, led by Santner. Santner was the only bowler who got success in the opening session with Rahul, who looked fluent during his 32 off 39 balls before being caught behind. The delivery was a quicker one which turned a shade taking a faint edge of Rahul's bat.
Vijay and Pujara continued in their nonchalant way in the post-lunch session, untroubled by the Kiwi bowlers. Vijay guided Boult to third man with a late cut to touch 49 and survived a leg before appeal off Sodhi before reaching his fifty with a single off Boult in the next over, the 41st of the innings.
India's Murali Vijay, left and Cheteshwar Pujara, run between wickets against New Zealand during their first cricket test in Kanpur, India (AP Photo)
Pujara also completed his half-century by driving Sodhi straight after getting a couple off the same bowler. Vijay preferred to play his shots from the backfoot against both Sodhi or Boult while Pujara was fantastic with his nimble footwork.
With nothing working for the Kiwis, New Zealand captain Kane Williams on tried to attack more by employing two close-in fielders -- a slip and a forward short-leg man, when Santner operated.
Wagner did get a bit of reverse swing but the well-set Indian batsmen dealt with it without fuss. Santner provided the breakthrough again but it was a soft dismissal as Pujara committed to a shot with the ball stopping on him offering a simple return catch.
It was the kind of mistake Kiwis were hoping for and Pujara provided them the window. Pujara’s 62, his eighth Test half-century, came off 109 balls with eight shots to the fence.
In came Kohli to rapturous chants of his name and got to business straightaway, cutting a widish Santner ball to the boundary and then pulled Wagner for another leg-side boundary. However, the Indian captain lasted only 10 balls. Wagner banged one short, which Kohli miscued a pull and found out Sodhi, who was specifically kept for that shot.
Vijay was patient in his approach and helped himself with four shots the fence while Pujara was swift and scored at a decent pace, hitting five boundaries.
Earlier, Rahul made a cracking start, hitting two crisp boundaries off paceman Boult in the very first over. Wagner kept banging it short to test the Indian openers while Boult preferred fullish length. Rahul was confident and comfortable at the crease and never looked like troubled by either of the two fast bowlers.
Kiwi skipper introduced Santner in the eighth over and continued with Wagner from one end. Rahul swept the left-arm spinner for a six but the Kiwi bowler exacted his revenge by having the young Indian batsmen caught behind in the next over.
Santner posed questions for the Indian batsmen, who handled Craig comparatively easily. Both the spinners flighted the ball but it being a first-day pitch, there was not much purchase from it.