Kanpur: Comeback man Shubman Gill settled down nicely after initial nervous moments to remain unbeaten on 52 as India reached 82 for one at lunch against New Zealand on the opening day of the first Test here.
Gill, who missed out on the England Test series due to a shin injury, played some delightful shots all round the wicket to reach his fourth Test half-century but more importantly has put the New Zealand spinners on back-foot.
He has so far hit five boundaries and a six and his 50 came off 81 balls.
His fellow opening partner Mayank Agarwal (13 off 28 balls) wasted a God given opportunity when he nicked one from Kyle Jamieson (6-2-12-1) that moved a shade from length to be caught by keeper Tom Blundell.
Cheteshwar Pujara (15 batting, 61 balls) was playing his own game but that didn’t affect India as Gill, after seeing off Tim Southee’s first spell, was severe on left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel (9-3-35-0) disturbing his length with both cuts and drives.
The duo has so far added 61 runs for the second wicket after India captain Ajinkya Rahane rightly decided to make first use of a Green Park track, where the ball has started keeping low with very little pace off the pitch.
Gill had in fact successfully appealed for a DRS when Southee had an on-field leg-before appeal reversed.
But once Patel came into the attack, one saw a different Gill in action. Anything short was either square-cut or back-cut and whenever the Mumbai-born spinner tried to toss one up, Gill would swiftly come to the pitch of the delivery to drive him off length.
The straight six to a tossed up delivery from Patel was a treat to watch and the harsh treatment didn’t change when Kane Williamson decided to switch the bowler’s end.
There was very little turn on offer for the spinners at least on the first day and that made it easier for Indian batters to negotiate as the ball didn’t even seem to grip off the surface.
Gill’s attacking batting did have an effect on off-spinner William Somerville (6-0-9-0), who set a defensive field putting a deep square leg and long-on with an eye on stopping the boundaries.