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Pujara, Rahane hit fifties before NZ fight back on Day 1

Last updated on: September 30, 2016 17:45 IST

IMAGE: Matt Henry, centre, celebrates with his team mates after taking the wicket of Shikhar Dhawan. Photograph: BCCI

India's vaunted batting line-up failed to recover from the early blows dealt by New Zealand's concerted bowling effort as they were reduced to 239 for seven on Day 1 of the second Test at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata, on Friday.

- Scorecard

Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane hit half-centuries, scoring 87 and 77 respectively, putting on 141 runs for the fourth wicket but none of the batsmen came good after skipper Virat Kohli opted to bat on the relaid pitch of the historic Eden Gardens stadium, hosting India's 250th home Test.

Pacer Matt Henry led the way with the ball for the Kiwis, who had captain Kane Williamson ruled out of the match because of illness, as he claimed three for 35, while off-spinner Jeetan Patel claimed two for 66. At one stage, India were well placed on 187 for three before they lost a few quick wickets in the post-tea session as New Zealand made a good comeback.

Wriddhiman Saha was unbeaten on 14, while Ravindra Jadeja was yet to open his account when play was called off after 87 overs because of bad light.

Cheteshwar Pujara

IMAGE: Cheteshwar Pujara bats during Day 1 of the Kolkata Test. Photograph: BCCI

After aiding seam movement and offering variable bounce in the morning, the pitch turned slow on a sultry afternoon, offering occasional turn. However, Pujara and Rahane batted sensibly to resurrect the innings. They were never in a hurry and played according to the merit of the ball, collecting timely boundaries in the process.

Pujara completed his 10th half century in 141 balls, slicing Neil Wagner to the third man boundary.

The only blip of the session for India was when Rahane, on 33, stepped out to spinner Jeetan Patel but his mishit fortunately went high in the skies and away from substitute fielder Doug Bracewell.

Ajinkya Rahane

IMAGE: Ajinkya Rahane bats during Day 1. Photograph: BCCI

Earlier, India had made a jittery start losing three of their top batsmen in the morning session.

Pacer Matt Henry, who replaced Ish Sodhi in the eleven, rocked the India top order with his twin blows of Shikhar Dhawan (1) and Murali Vijay (9).

Just when it seemed Kohli (9) was steadying the ship with a set Pujara, Trent Boult dismissed the skipper who suffered his third failure in as many innings.

The Indian captain got carried away after an exquisite cover drive as he chased another wide ball hoping to repeat but was caught brilliantly by Tom Latham at point. The dismissal less than half an hour before the lunch pegged back India's recovery.

In the second ball of his first over, Henry, who last played in February against Australia at Christchurch, bowled Dhawan who tried to cut a angled delivery only to drag the ball back to his stumps.
At the other end, Pujara got off the mark with two elegant boundaries on both the sides of the wicket while Murali Vijay looked in fine form before falling to a beauty from Henry.

Playing only in his fifth Test, Henry, after repeatedly beating the outside edge, bowled one straight and full and Vijay had no option but to play at it, eventually getting a faint edge down to BJ Watling behind the stumps.

IMAGE: Cheteshwar Pujara, right, with Ajinkya Rahane during Day 1 of the Kolkata Test. Photograph: BCCI

Pujara and Rahane steadied the innings in the post-lunch session for the hosts, who will regain the top spot in ICC rankings if they seal the three-match series in this match,

For the in-form Pujara, it was his third half-century from as many innings but a lapse in concentration saw him miss a deserved century as he ended his patient innings for 87 that came off 219 deliveries and was studded with 17 hits to the fence.

After the hosts were reduced to 46 for three in a jittery first session, Pujara and  Rahane batted with grit and determination under the blazing afternoon heat and energy-sapping humidity.

The duo's stand spanned three hours and nine minutes but the Kiwis made an impact in the final session snapping four wickets.

Pujara was set up brilliantly by left-arm pacer Neil Wagner, who put a short cover for him, and the Indian holed out to Martin Guptill in that same position.

However, it was not a good day at his favourite ground for Rohit Sharma (2), who was dismissed by Patel. The right-hander also looked to have hurt his left shoulder while attempting a single.

Rahane, who hit 11 fours in his 157-ball stay at the crease, was dismissed leg before wicket by off-spinner Patel with India's score exactly at 200.

Down the order, Ravichandran Ashwin played a useful knock of 26 that was laced with four hits to the boundary before he was trapped leg before wicket by Henry, a few overs before the close.

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