World Cup 2019: KL Rahul fails No4 audition and other things learned from India's warm-up loss to NZ

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Rahul throws away another opportunity.

India‘s 2019 World Cup preparations got off to a sorry start with the Men in Blue falling to a crushing six-wicket loss against New Zealand in their first official warm-up clash at the Oval.

India’s batsmen were blown away by Trent Boult and some prodigious early morning swing at the Oval with the side bowled out for just 179 runs inside 40 overs after choosing to bat first.

In response, New Zealand barely broke a sweat in the 180-run chase and scaled the target with nearly 13 overs to spare. Here, we take a look at the four key things learned for India from their loss.

JADEJA STAKES HIS CLAIM

On a day to forget for India’s batsmen, Ravindra Jadeja did his chances of making the final playing XI no harm with another solid display. The left-hander carried over his good batting form from the IPL in an innings which helped save India’s blushes.

India looked set to be bowled out for 100 odd runs after the seventh wicket fell on 91 but Jadeja stood his ground with a defiant half-century to give the score some respectability.

The all-rounder took the attack to New Zealand’s spinners and hooked and pulled with aplomb in a quick-fire 50-ball 54 which was only brought to an end by a stunning catch by Martin Guptill. Jadeja also picked up the wicket of the well-set Ross Taylor with the ball to round off a fine individual display.

The competition for the all-round and spin slots in India’s playing XI is fierce but Jadeja’s recent promising displays in international cricket will give Kohli with some food for thought ahead of the World Cup.

A fine counter-attacking innings from Jadeja.

A fine counter-attacking innings from Jadeja.

RAHUL FAILS NO4 AUDITION

While it was a pitch on which all of India’s top-order batsmen struggled, KL Rahul will be disappointed to not take his chance at the No4 slot.

It would most likely have been Vijay Shankar batting at No4 for India but an injury to the all-rounder on Friday opened the doors for Rahul to stake his claim in the middle-order. However, the right-hander struggled against the swing of Trent Boult before throwing his wicket away in innocuous fashion.

Having survived a testing period early on, Rahul could only chop down a Boult short ball onto his stumps to depart for a 10-ball six. It left India no closer to finding an answer to their No4 puzzle and it could very well be a big blow to Rahul’s World Cup hopes.

Should Shankar return for the second warm-up game and do well, it could be the all-rounder who bats at No4 for India when they open their campaign against South Africa on June 5.

Lapses in concentration continue to plague Rahul.

Lapses in concentration continue to plague Rahul.

TRACES OF IPL REMAIN

India’s stellar batting unit was made to look ordinary on a pitch with a hint of grass. Skipper Virat Kohli elected to bat first under overcast conditions in the morning in order to challenge his batting order. Unfortunately for Kohli, it was a challenge India’s batsmen including himself failed miserably with Trent Boult running riot with the new ball.

Openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma succumbed to the zip and seam movement of Boult while Kohli played all over a Colin de Grandhomme inswinger. MS Dhoni resisted for a while in typical fashion but the veteran wicketkeeper and Dinesh Karthik were both guilty of throwing their wickets away with rash shots.

It was telling that the big-hitting Ravindra Jadeja and Hardik Pandya emerged as India’s best batsmen for the day with the established stars letting themselves down.

Many of the players looked to still be in IPL mode and it is a hangover India will need to shrug off quickly if they are to go deep in the World Cup.

Kohli and India's batsmen fail the swing test.

Kohli and India’s batsmen fail the swing test.

WRIST SPINNERS OFF COLOUR

New Zealand did not have much trouble chasing down India’s total of 179 despite some initial hiccups induced by Jasprit Bumrah. The right-arm pacer was the only Indian bowler who managed to threaten the Kiwi batsmen consistently with his four overs leaking just two runs while fetching the wicket of Colin Munro.

However, the real concern for India will be the display of Kuldeep Yadav who came into the clash on the back of a dismal IPL campaign. The wrist-spinner, along with Yuzvendra Chahal, barely troubled New Zealand’s batsmen in the 14 overs bowled between them.

Chahal did manage to pick up the wicket of Kane Williamson towards the end of the game but Kuldeep looked at least three levels below his best.

The two wrist spinners are India’s biggest ODI wicket-taking options apart from Bumrah and their blunt displays will have Kohli and the team management worried.

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