For the first two days of this Test match, New Zealand had hurt the Indians on home soil. But as the capricious nature of the sub-continent conditions came into force, the Black Caps found themselves lost in the wicked world of the spinning ball, assisted by a dusty track, at the Green Park here.
Indian spinners, who had struggled to shake up the resilience of the Kiwis, exemplified by Kane Williamson and Tom Latham in their overnight unbeaten stand of 117 for the second wicket, returned with better plans this morning.
With widening cracks, old ball and badgering accuracy, the spinning duo of left-armer Ravindra Jadeja (5/73) and off-spinner Ravinchandran Ashwin (4/93) razed the New Zealand batting to restrict their first innings to 262 in an hour into the post lunch session. The two home spinners bowled fuller and quicker, Jadeja in particular, and extracted the turn from the pitch to douse the challenge of Black Caps.
Armed with a 56-run first innings lead, the Indians strode into their second innings with authority. By stumps, after being outbowled and outbatted for four sessions, India had masterfully changed the complexion of the contest conjuring 159/1 with Murali Vijay (64 n.o.) and Cheteshwar Pujara (50 n.o.) hitting their second fifties of the match and extending the Indian lead to 215.
The Indian spinners, who had begun to look threatening at the stroke of tea on Friday, made inroads in the fourth over of the day. Ashwin cracked the stubborn overnight partnership of Williamson and Latham. Latham was undone by a straighter one from the tall off-spinner that hit his pads. The next man, Ross Taylor, lasted two balls and departed when he played for the turn of Jadeja, only to be trapped leg before.
Ashwin, varying his line, snared the best of the New Zealand lot. He hit the rough and the vicious turn breached the defence of Williamson who was looking to place it to cover. Within four overs, New Zealand had lost three wickets and had undone their hard work of two days. India, spurred by a vociferous crowd, were back in the game, confident and hungry.
Luke Ronchi and Mitchell Santner began to pick pieces by raising 49 for the fifth wicket but Jadeja struck again. Ronchi missed the line while trying to sweep him and got a rough decision. Santner impressed with his maturity beyond his years, this time with the bat, to bring back memories of Daniel Vettori who has been guiding the youngster. But he couldn’t last long. Neither did the Black Caps’ innings with Jadeja picking Mark Craigh, Ish Sodhi and Trent Boult in the same over.
India, getting nearly two sessions to play, made the most of the opportunity.
The Black Caps’ spinners were never allowed to settle as Vijay and KL Rahul combined to help India get quickly off the blocks.
Rahul (38 off 50 balls) again failed to build on a good start and was caught at slip while trying to cut Sodhi at the stroke of tea. Vijay and Pujara began the final session briskly, and kept up the pace till the end of day’s play when India found themselves in the driver’s seat. With the pitch deteriorating steadily, the journey is only going to get tougher for the Black Caps.
INDIA(I Innings): 318
NEW ZEALAND (I Innings; o/n: 152/1):
Guptill lbw b Yadav 21
Latham lbw b Ashwin 58
Williamson b Ashwin 75
Ronchi lbw b Jadeja 38
Santner c Saha b Ashwin 32
Watling c& b Ashwin 21
Craig lbw b Jadeja 2
Sodhi lbw b Jadeja 0
Boult c Rohit b Jadeja 0
Wagner (not out) 0
Extras (B-8, LB-5, NB-2) 15
Total (in 95.5 overs) 262
Fall of wickets: 1-35 (Guptill), 2-159 (Latham), 3-160 (Taylor), 4-170 (Williamson), 5-219 (Ronchi), 6-255 (Santner), 7-258 (Craig), 8-258 (Sodhi), 9-258 (Boult).
Bowling: Mohammad Shami 11-1-35-0, Umesh Yadav 15-3-33-1, Ravindra Jadeja 34-7-73-5 (nb-2), Ravichandran Ashwin 30.5-7-93-4, Murali Vijay 4-0-10-0, Rohit Sharma 1-0-5-0.
INDIA (II innings):
Rahul c Taylor b Sodhi 38
Vijay (batting) 64
(152b, 7x4, 1x6)
Pujara (batting) 50
Extras (B-7) 7
Total (for 1 wkt, 47 overs) 159
Fall of wicket: 1-52 (Rahul).
Bowling: Trent Boult 5-0-11-0, Mitchell Santner 13-5-33-0, Mark Craig 11-1-48-0, Neil Wagner 8-3-17-0, Ish Sodhi 7-2-29-1, Martin Guptill 3-0-14-0.