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3 takeaways from India’s three-day practice match ahead of the Test series against New Zealand

Vihari gave a good account of himself in the first innings of the three-day game against New Zealand XI as he countered the excessive bounce.

Ajinkya Rahane, Mohammed Shami and R. Ashwin
Ajinkya Rahane, Mohammed Shami and R. Ashwin. (Photo Source: Instagram)

Team India completed their preparations for the upcoming Test series against New Zealand with a three-day practice match against New Zealand XI, which culminated on Sunday. The Men in Blue had a decent workout with Mayank Agarwal returning to form with a whirlwind half-century in the second innings and the duo of Cheteshwar Pujara [93] and Hanuma Vihari [101] showcasing their grit in the first.

On the bowling front, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami put-on a fast bowling clinic by claiming five wickets between them, giving a huge sigh of relief to both the fans as well as the team management. So, with the preparations done and dusted, and with India now set to play their first Test against New Zealand in ‘windy’ Wellington from February 21, what are the questions facing the No.1 Test side after the culmination of the practice match?

Here’s a look at takeaways from the three-day practice match:

3. Who will open with Mayank Agarwal?

Mayank Agarwal
Mayank Agarwal. (Photo Source: Twitter)

Another overseas Test series and another familiar question confronting the Indian think-tank: Who should open with the incumbent Mayank Agarwal in the first Test at the Basin Reserve in Wellington: Prithvi Shaw or Shubman Gill or do they go with a left-field choice in Hanuma Vihari, if they are looking to play five bowlers? 

Vihari gave a good account of himself in the first innings of the three-day game against New Zealand XI as he countered the excessive bounce that the surface had to offer and scored an unbeaten 101 after the likes of Prithvi Shaw and Shubman Gill was bounced out by Scott Kuggeleijn.

Vihari said in an interview after the first day that he is ready to play in whatever position that the team asks him to. And, he may come into contention for the opening slot in-case India decides to play with five-bowling options.

That said, India’s decision of sending out Prithvi Shaw as an opening partner to Mayank did give us a peek into their mindset. After missing out in the first innings, Shaw played some cracking strokes in the second essay and along with Mayank, stitched a whirlwind 72-run-stand inside the first ten overs.

With Shaw opening the batting in the practice match and Shubman Gill- who had come into the match in whirlwind form- failing to make the opportunity count [0 & 8], the balance may have tilted in the favor of the Mumbaikar, as far as opening in the first Test is concerned.

Team India will be hugely relieved that Mayank Agarwal finally shrugged off his poor run-of-form when a 99-ball 81 in the second innings and they’ll hope that he carries that to the Test matches.

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