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Cricket: India dominate opening day against Black Caps

India, led by the first century of the series from captain Virat Kohli, dominated New Zealand on the opening day of the third test at Indore.

Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane completed the highest partnership of the series, an unbeaten 167 for the fourth wicket, to take the hosts to 267-3 at stumps.

Three pieces of brilliance - and almost a fourth - by the visitors were all that kept them from a day of despair in front of a packed Indore crowd experiencing a test match for the first time at the venue.

Tom Latham used reactions which would have left Mr Miyagi beaming to snaffle the catch of Murali Vijay at short leg; Trent Boult produced an outswinging off cutter to trap Gautam Gambhir lbw; and Mitchell Santner spun a ball away from Cheteshwar Pujara to remove his off stump. Jimmy Neesham, recalled to the side at the expense of Neil Wagner, had a direct hit at the non-striker's end as Kohli dashed for his 100th run. The hosts' captain made it by centimetres with his dive. The crowd let him know.

Pujara's loss left the hosts' middle order exposed at 100-3 before the Kohli-Rahane renaissance.

Santner delivered a good length ball which Pujara opted to play from the back foot. He stepped back but didn't go across far enough towards off stump. Santner's left-arm orthodox action did the rest, threading the narrowest of apertures to hit his target.
The match plot took a more predictable direction at the start.

Conspiracy theorists will froth over the fabled 'commemorative coin' used to conduct tosses in India, as Kohli won his seventh consecutive effort at home and (drumroll) decided to bat. India reached 75-2 at lunch.

It's hardly Kohli's fault visiting captains keep calling incorrectly. He's not flicking the coin. In those seven toss wins - including this match - India has won five of the tests; the other was washed out.

The hosts accelerated to 26 from four overs after initial delays. One was for a change of ball, ridiculously for the second delivery of the game, the other was a sightscreen malfunction as the Madhya Pradesh officials experienced debut stage fright.

Captain Kane Williamson, returning to the side after recovering from his viral illness, changed tack and brought on Jeetan Patel. Williamson was asked in the captain's press conference when he thought the pitch would turn. What a priceless answer it would have been if he'd said "fifth over". Alas, he didn't, but significant damage to the pitch around the footmarks suggests spin will dominate.

Patel bowled four relatively good length balls which Vijay defended. He went to clip the fifth through the legside, intending to ease it past Latham. His venus flytrap hands closed around the ball after it bobbled up his right arm. It was just reward for his hours spent taking myriad catches in such fashion each practice.

The Black Caps jubilation was short-lived, relative to the day.

Boult removed Gambhir lbw in the 20th over to make it 60 for two.

The shock in the New Zealand ranks was the decision to opt for all-rounder Neesham over Wagner. No one has shown more heart for the national cricketing cause in recent tests than Wagner, who is poised on 99 test wickets.

Selection decisions shouldn't be based on milestones, but Wagner's performances as a first change bowler often toiling in unenviable conditions without a new ball are gritty.

The pressure goes on Neesham to justify his selection over the course of the match.

The irony is that it is hardly Wagner's fault New Zealand lost the opening two tests. The onus should be on the top seven batsmen - with Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor and B-J Watling averaging less than 20 for the series - to deliver accountability rather than needing another all-rounder option as batting insurance.

- NZ Herald

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