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World Test Championship Final: Kohli, Rahane stabilise India against NZ


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.

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”.

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