Team India’s batting coach Vikram Rathour acknowledged the complexity of the conditions in Southampton and insisted that his side will be more than happy if they manage to post a total over 250 in the first innings. India ended day 1 on 146/3, with both Kohli and Rahane batting unbeaten.
As England found out not too long ago, there are few tougher tasks in world cricket than facing the New Zealand pace attack against a Dukes ball. But as if this challenge wasn’t arduous enough, India, on Saturday, had to do the same in cloudy and overcast conditions which gave the bowlers all the help they needed.
Many feared the worst when India lost the toss but what ensued was a display of discipline and resilience from Virat Kohli’s men, who worked incredibly hard to end the day on 146/3. At one point the Kiwi bowlers - who were off-radar in the beginning - found more swing than they ever have in the last 15 years, but India’s discipline meant that there was to be no collapse at any point in the day.
Factoring in the conditions, India’s batting coach Vikram Rathour said at the end of the day’s play that anything over 250 would be a competitive total.
"We would like to score as many runs as possible but 250 plus will be a reasonable score in these conditions," Rathour said at the day end press conference.
India got off to a dream start, losing no wickets for the first 20 overs, but after the openers perished, there was an opening for the Kiwis at 88/3 when Trent Boult trapped Cheteshwar Pujara in front. However, the skipper and the vice-skipper ensured that they kept the Kiwis at bay, batting on despite the conditions being incredibly tough. Rathour lauded the experienced duo and the openers for keeping India ahead in the day.
"Hats off to Virat and Rahane for the manner in which they batted but a lot of credit should also go to the openers."
The Kiwis were uncharacteristically erratic in the first hour of the game, with the new ball, but they bounced back post the initial faltering, bowling with impeccable accuracy for the rest of the day. Batting, in fact, got progressively difficult as the day went on, and Rathour insisted that the Dukes ball started swinging more as it got older.
"I think when the ball got a bit older, it started swinging more. Also the New Zealand pacers hit good areas during the second session."
One batsman who looked shaky from ball one was Pujara, and that he eventually perished cheaply surprised no one. Apart from being hit on the head by Wagner, Pujara was tentative during his stay in the middle, and he extended his sub-par record in England. Rathour, however, rubbished suggestions that Pujara is facing technical issues, and insisted that the batsman looked solid during his stay.
"We are not really concerned and he is a good player. I don't think pace is an issue with him. Till he batted, he looked solid and he has a role to play in the team.
"Today also, he played 50 odd balls. He just needs to convert those starts. It's going to happen very soon.”