India reaches 69-2 against New Zealand in WTC final

SOUTHAMPTON, England (AP) — New Zealand’s all-out pace attack removed both India openers before lunch in overcast conditions in the world test championship final on Saturday.

After the first day’s play was washed out due to rain, the inclement weather encouraged New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson to field first after winning the toss with five fast bowlers chosen in the playing XI.

India went to lunch at 69-2 with Cheteshwar Pujara yet to get off the mark after facing 24 balls while captain Virat Kohli was not out on 6.

The opening pair of Rohit Sharma (34) and Shubman Gill (28) won the early battle against the swing of Tim Southee and Trent Boult, adding 62 runs before both fell in the space of one run in an eventful last half hour before lunch.

Sharma looked to have settled down well and played two elegant backfoot cover-driven boundaries against Colin de Grandhomme, who surprisingly bowled ahead of Neil Wagner.

Kyle Jamiesen finally induced a thick outside edge of Sharma as Southee pounced onto a two-handed low catch in the third slip to give New Zealand a breakthrough.

Wagner lived up to his reputation of picking up wickets early as the left-arm swing bowler found the outside edge of Gill’s bat in his first over to give the Black Caps double delight in the first session.

Wicketkeeper-batsman B.J. Watling will be playing in his last test match as he had announced his retirement from test cricket.

“Really great occasion for him to play his last game, and I’m sure he’ll enjoy it,” Williamson said at the toss.

In contrast to New Zealand’s all-out seam attack, India has gone with two specialist spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja with Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah as the fast bowling options.

Kohli said he would have bowled first, too, had he won the toss, but he was happy to bat.

“Big final,” he said. “(Put) runs on the board and it’s always a bit of an advantage. The two spinners can bowl in any conditions and if there’s a bit of dampness, they’re really accurate and can make use of it as well.”

If the outcome is a draw, the trophy will be shared.

India players wore black armbands in memory of the country's celebrated sprinter Milkha Singh, who died at age 91 late Friday night because of complications of COVID-19.

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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