India opening batsman Mayank Agarwal (second from right) celebrates his 29th birthday with teammates in New Zealand.
India opening batsman Mayank Agarwal (second from right) celebrates his 29th birthday with teammates in New Zealand.
BCCI

Mayank Agarwal found form on his birthday and Rishabh Pant mixed caution with his customary aggression as India's warm-up fixture against New Zealand XI ended in a draw here, Sunday.

The match was called off an hour after lunch with India reaching 252 for four just 48 overs into their second innings. Agarwal, who had gone through a wretched period since the second Test against Bangladesh, retired on 81 off 99 balls with 10 fours and three sixes to his name.

To the relief of the Indian team management, Pant played in his customary manner to reach 70 off 65 balls, but also showed discretion when the opposition bowlers were in the midst of a good spell.

There were four sixes -- two each off leg-spinner Ish Sodhi and off-spinner Henry Cooper.

While Sodhi was hit down the ground, Cooper was dispatched over extra cover on a couple of occasions. He didn't curb his aggression though; there were times when he was ready defend against the spinners and also leave some of the deliveries that the Kiwi pacers bowled.

Even though Pant is easily the better batsman compared to his senior Wriddhiman Saha, the innings might have come too late in the day considering that the latter is a better keeper and possibly a more responsible batsman in pressure situations.

The biggest positive to have emerged from the New Zealand second innings is Agarwal's poor run coming to an end. The Seddon Park track easing out was definitely a factor but Agarwal's footwork was more assured as he played some glorious on-drives and pull-shots off fast bowlers.

Before this game, Agarwal had played 10 competitive games including first-class, ODIs and List A matches and couldn't cross the 40-run mark in 11 completed innings. He even bagged a pair against New Zealand A in an unofficial Test match.

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