Fighting half-centuries by Shreyas Iyer, Ravindra Jadeja, and Shubman Gill helped India take the honours on the first day of the first Test against New Zealand at the Green Park Stadium here on Thursday.
At stumps, called early due to bad light, India are 258/4 in 84 overs with Iyer (75 not out off 136 balls) and Jadeja (50 not out off 100 balls) building an unbeaten 113-run stand after Kyle Jamieson and Tim Southee reduced India to 145/4 in 49.2 overs. the visitors had clawed back their way in the second session after Gill had helped India take honours in the first session by scoring his third Test half-century (52 off 93 balls).
After winning the toss and electing to bat first on a pitch that had some cracks and variable bounce, India had done all things right in the morning, propped up by a 61-run partnership between Gill and Cheteshwar Pujara (26). Gill, after surviving lbw calls early on, was at ease against Ajaz Patel, taking him for four fours and oozed confidence in smashing the left-arm spinner for a straight six while marching towards his fourth half-century in the format.
Everything was going serene for India till New Zealand fought back in the second session, taking three wickets for 72 runs in 27 overs, with Jamieson being the chief destroyer on a day in which spinners went wicketless and bled runs in 52 overs. Jamieson, who constantly probed the off-stump channel and had Mayank Agarwal (13) nicking behind to keeper Tom Blundell in the eighth over, struck in the sixth ball post-lunch. Gill, trying to defend forward, inside-edged a full nip-backer to his stumps.
Jamieson then caused trouble for Pujara and Rahane, even hitting the India vice-captain on the glove. New Zealand captain Kane Williamson replaced Jamieson with Southee, a decision that went well as Pujara pressed forward to defend outside the off-stump, only for the ball to take an outer edge to Blundell for a clean low catch.
P'st Pujara's dismissal, Rahane hit some crisp boundaries through the off-side, with the one-through cover off Jamieson being the standout. But in the 50th over, the tall pacer had the last laugh as Rahane chopped on to his stumps, undone by low bounce, leaving India in trouble.
Iyer, who was almost caught out while going for a big shot early in the innings off left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel, got two boundaries and survived a close lbw shout off off-spinner William Somerville as well, going into 17 off 31 balls at tea. The 26-year-old began the final session by driving an overpitched Rachin Ravindra delivery through the cover. He would go on to take three boundaries 'ff Ravindra's left-arm spin, including back-to-back ones in the 64th over. Iyer then slowed down and dealt in singles, one of which led to reaching his maiden half-century in 94 balls, becoming the 63rd Indian batter to reach the landmark on de'ut.
Patel's re-int'oduction didn't change things as Iyer cut him late through backward point.
On the other hand, Jadeja smashed the odd boundary while rotating the strike. The duo were largely untroubled through an odd ball from Somerville did trouble the latter. While Jadeja got a thick outer edge from Southee for a boundary, Iyer continued to cut Patel twice through off-side followed by lofting sweetly over long-on.
Taking the second new ball didn't change the situation for New Zealand as Jadeja hit successive boundaries off Jamieson, bringing a century of the fifth-wicket partnership with Iyer. In the next over, Jadeja brought up his 17th Test half-century with a quick single to mid-off. The last scoring shot of the day was Iyer smashing Somerville for a six over deep mid-wicket, ending making 58 runs off 72 balls in the final session.
Overall, India will be the happier side as the Iyer-Jadeja partnership blossomed. They will be looking to continue their ascendancy on the second day, with some batting firepower still there.
Brief scores: India 258/4 in 84 overs (Shreyas Iyer batting 75, Shubman Gill 52, Ravindra Jadeja batting 50; Kyle Jamieson 3/47, Tim Southee 1/43) against New Zealand.