India captain Virat Kohli held firm in the face of accurate New Zealand pace bowling as the inaugural World Test Championship final at Southampton eventually got going on Saturday. After Friday’s first day was washed out without a ball bowled, India were 146-3 when the third of the day’s stoppages for bad light led to an early close. Kohli was 44 not out, with the star batsman having hit just one boundary in 124 balls faced. Meanwhile, Ajinkya Rahane was 29 not out after adding an unbroken 58 for the fourth wicket with Kohli. Towering quick Kyle Jamieson ended the day with remarkable figures of 1-14 in 14 overs. Only 64.4 overs out of 180 scheduled for the first two days have so far been bowled.
But under a special provision for this final, match referee Chris Broad can add an extra day onto the standard maximum five for a men’s Test if he decides such an extension is needed to compensate for time lost to bad weather earlier in the game.
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson won the toss in overcast conditions that favoured his five-man pace attack.
But Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill batted impressively in an opening stand of 62.
India, however, lost three wickets either side of lunch to be 88-3.
Their position might have been worse had Kohli been given out caught behind down the legside off left-arm quick Trent Boult on 17.
But amid some on-field confusion, an umpire review led to replays that indicated Kohli had not hit the ball.
India’s openers made a fine start amid New Zealand’s swing and seam.
Rohit confidently clipped the first ball of the match, from Tim Southee, off his pads for three while Gill showed his class by driving Jamieson down the ground for four.
– Stylish Rohit –
Rohit brought up the 50 partnership with a stylish cover-driven four off all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme.
The openers’ form was all the more impressive given this was India’s first Test since March whereas only last week New Zealand completed a 1-0 series win over England with an eight-wicket victory at Edgbaston.
But Rohit’s 68-ball innings, featuring six fours, ended when he edged a late-swinging delivery from Jamieson to third slip where Southee held an excellent low catch, diving to his right.
Gill followed soon afterwards for 28, edging aggressive left-armer Neil Wagner to BJ Watling in what the New Zealand wicketkeeper has said will be his last match before retirement.
It took Cheteshwar Pujara 51 minutes and 36 balls to get off the mark, a cut four off medium-pacer de Grandhomme greeted by huge cheers from India fans in the crowd.
But, as happened several times during India’s come-from-behind series win in Australia this year, Pujara was hit on the helmet by a bouncer after missing a pull off Wagner.
Pujara’s painstaking eight off 54 balls ended when he was lbw to a Boult inswinger that cut back sharply off the pitch.
The umpires frustrated the crowd by thrice taking the players off the field for bad light either side of the tea break even when the floodlights were on, despite regulations that allow play to proceed when conditions are “not ideal”.
Play stopped for the final time on Saturday at 4:53 pm (1553 GMT) but it was not until more than an hour later, at 6:10 pm (1710) that the umpires called stumps.
The same group of match officials were criticised for a similarly strict interpretation of what constituted bad light during an England-Pakistan Test at the Hampshire Bowl last year.
This match, the culmination of two years of series between the leading Test nations, is worth $1.6 million to the winners and $800,000 to the runners-up.
The India team wore black armbands Saturday as a mark of respect for Milkha Singh following the national track athletics legend’s death from Covid-19 at the age of 91.