Rohit, Gill depart after promising start to leave India at 69 for two at lunch

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Southampton, Jun 19 (PTI) Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill staved off the initial swing threat posed by the opposition pace attack with disciplined batting before New Zealand fought back to leave India at 69 for two at lunch on day two of the World Test Championship final here on Saturday. After the opening day was rained out, cooler and overcast conditions at the Hampshire Bowl on day made it a no brainer to bowl first and Kane Williamson did just that.

India decided to stick to the playing eleven they announced two days ago despite change in conditions while New Zealand went in with a four-prong pace attack at the expense of a specialist spinner with all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme being the fifth seam bowling option.

Opening for the first time in England, Rohit (34 off 68) and Gill (28 off 64) came into the middle with a clear gameplan and applied themselves brilliantly against the potent pace duo of Trent Boult and Tim Southee.

As he often does, Rohit batted with an open stance to negate left-arm pacer Boult's trademark inswinger while Gill stood outside his crease to tackle Southee's outswinger. There were times when Gill was not afraid to come down the track.

Gill, who had played the short ball extremely well in his debut series in Australia, pulled Boult off the front foot for India's first boundary of the final.

Rohit got going with a couple of fours off Southee in the following over, one a cut through point and the other a thick edge past the slip cordon. Gill welcomed Kyle Jamieson into the attack with a lovely straight drive off an inswinger. The New Zealand bowlers were struggling to keep things tight as India reached 41 for no loss in 11 overs without a maiden over being bowled. No runs were scored for the next three overs with the openers doing a fine job to survive the first hour of play. The young Gill took a nasty hit on his helmet grille after Jamieson caught him by surprise with a sharp bouncer.

The lanky pacer was the one who provided the much needed breakthrough by having Rohit caught at third slip with Southee taking a terrific catch.

Neil Wagner sent Gill back in his very first over with the one angling away and straight into the hands of wicketkeeper B J Watling, scripting New Zealand's late fightback in the session.

Cheteshwar Pujara (0 off 24) and skipper Virat Kohli (6 off 12) were in the middle when lunch was taken. PTI BS AT AT

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