India have been guilty in the past of forfeiting 3 day tour games and going directly into the test series in a bid to save time and squeeze in more ODI and T20 cricket. That approach has hurt India in the test arena before which is why head coach Ravi Shastri has insisted in playing a minimum of one tour game.
India Batsmen Find Form
The biggest concern for India going into the NZ XI tour game at Hamilton was the form of their openers. Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal failed in the 3 match ODI series and needed to get some runs under their belt to get some confidence before the first test which starts on 21 Feb in Wellington. India also included Shubman Gill in the playing XI as he is the backup opener in the squad.
India batted first in the tour game and were immediately in trouble as they once again lost Shaw (0), Agarwal (1) and Gill (0) who came in at number 4 in quick succession. It looked like India were going to get steamrolled after vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane (18) got out. However, Cheteshwar Pujara (93) once again showed why he is such a reliable batsman for India at number 3 as he blunted the new ball and made it a lot easier for the middle-order.
What was even more impressive was the performance of Hanuma Vihari who made 101 before retiring out. Vihari, who will play in place of Hardik Pandya, played a brilliant innings. It helped India get to 263. The rest of the batting line-up which included Rishabh Pant, Wriddhiman Saha, R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja all got out for single digit scores.
India got to bat again towards the end of the second day after the bowlers dismantled the NZ XI line-up. This time around Shaw and Agarwal threw caution to the wind and played their shots and scored at a brisk rate. Both remained unbeaten at the close of play and Shaw got out no the third day for 39 from 41 balls while Agarwal made 81 of 99. It was another failure for Gill (8) who will be disappointed with his performance.
India promoted Pant to number 4 and Saha to number 5 and both made runs. Pant was very impressive scoring 70 of 65 while Saha remained unbeaten on 30.
Fast Bowlers Gain Confidence
The big concern for India apart from their openers failing was the form of their fast bowlers. NZ handled the Indian seamers well in the ODI format. It was important for Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Navdeep Saini to quickly find their line and length in the tour game.
They did exactly that as all four seamers were amongst the wickets. Bumrah not only bowled economically but picked up 2 wickets. Umesh Yadav who opened the bowling with Bumrah was a little expensive but picked up two key wickets. The pick of the fast bowlers was Shami. The speedster picked up 3 wickets and booked a place for himself in the first test. Saini took 2 wickets but was very expensive conceding close to 4 runs an over.
Ashwin and Jadeja sent down a total of 25.2 overs between as they helped the fast bowlers take a break. However, they were not very threatening as one would expect in seamer friendly conditions. Ashwin finally managed to take the wicket of Ish Sodhi late on the second day.
India will feel a lot more confident entering the first test; the tour game has helped both their batsmen and bowlers to find rhythm.