Hyderabad Test: An Indian first and opening woes

Highlights of the first day's play between India and New Zealand

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AN 'AUGUST' OCCASION  


When was the last time a Test match was played in August in India? You’d have to go back to 1933 searching for this elusive fixture and you still won’t find it because the short answer to that question is ‘never’. When it was announced, this series tweening India’s two trips to Sri Lanka seemed odd. After all this is the rainy season.

The Indian cricket season typically begins with the monsoon waning towards September. The earliest a Test match has been played in India was in 1979 when Australia played in Chennai on September 11. To find the last instance of a September Test series in India, you’d have to go to the tied Test of 1986. But at the moment there’s a drought-like situation in India, and the southern parts of India (which are hosting these fixtures) tend not to receive heavy rains at this time of the year. The clouds may give these games a miss after all.

THE LOST TOSS

The toss was a blow to Ross Taylor. He’s playing four seamers and a spinner. The pitch is expected to slow down and Taylor wanted to make first use of the wicket. But when match referee Chris Broad said India had won the toss, Taylor turned his back and took a few steps away from the pitch, probably quietly agonising over the toil that lies ahead for his bowlers.

OPENERS DISAPPOINT

The infamous waft outside the off-stump that has caused Gautam Gambhir so much problem cost him his wicket again. If there ever was an opportunity to help himself to a hundred, this was it. The bowling was less than threatening. The wicket is flat. He had made a steady start of 22. But then he tried that dab through the off-side again, and gave Trent Boult his first wicket. Gambhir has now gone 38 innings without a Test hundred. How he has plummeted from the heady days of 2008-9.

But what about Virender Sehwag? He had two stokes of luck in his short but entertaining innings of 47. He offered two chances on 21 and 35. Despite the chances and friendly conditions, he failed to produce a big innings. Like his opening partner and friend Gambhir, Sehwag's last Test hundred in 2010. Individually, their performances have been lacklustre. Together too, they haven't been the effective pair they were.

So we ask the question: with Ajinkya Rahane waiting for his turn, is it time to test another opening pair?

LIFE AFTER VVS, DRAVID

Since they debuted in 1996, this is just the second time an Indian line-up will not feature both of them. The last time was during the Nagpur Test of 2010 which India had lost. But Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli have done just fine thus far. Pujara came in at Gambhir's fall and batted out the first session assuredly. Kohli came out right after Sachin Tendulkar had squatted over an in-cutter from Boult. Somewhere in the middle of this short, laborious innings, Tendulkar faced his 50,000th delivery in international cricket. It seems Kohli and Pujara are on their way to scaling similar milestones.

PUJARA'S HUNDRED

With a dab to midwicket, Pujara took the single that would bring up his first Test hundred. This is just his fourth Test. Dravid, the man they said Pujara would replace, took nine. After a slowish start to his innings, Pujara sped towards his hundred. His second fifty took just 50 balls.

TAYLOR'S HORROR DAY

The New Zealand captain had three chances today in the slips. He missed all of them. In the morning session, Taylor decided not to go for a slash from Sehwag and watched is float between him and wicketkeeper Kruger van Wyk. In the evening session, he made the error of moving slightly to his right while Jeetan Patel bowled. It was enough for him to miss an edge from Kohli's bat that went for four and brought up his fifty. Patel then saw his captain drop Dhoni in similar fashion when he was on zero. Taylor won't sleep well tonight.

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