India need another 320 runs to win the first Test against New Zealand at Auckland, after finishing day three at 87 for one.
At Eden Park, 17 wickets fell in the day, with India bowled out for 202 runs in reply to the hosts’ first innings total of 503 runs. Then, the Black Caps themselves were knocked over for a paltry 105 runs, leaving the visitors with this massive chase in nearly seven sessions.
Shikhar Dhawan was unbeaten on 49 runs (70 balls, five fours) and Cheteshwar Pujara was batting on 22 not out (61 balls, one four, one six) at stumps.
The former had been dropped by Brendon McCullum in the second over of the innings, off Tim Southee, when he was on seven. Thereafter he didn’t give any chances again. Murali Vijay (13) was not so lucky though, adjudged caught behind down the legside off the same bowler in the eighth over.
Southee (1-18) was the lone wicket-taker, with Trent Boult (0-28), Neil Wagner (0-11) and Corey Anderson (0-8) not able to repeat their first-innings magic with the new ball.
Ish Sodhi (0-17) found some late turn, and along with Kane Williamson (0-5), might play a part on the final two days.
This was after the host were bowled out for 105 runs (41.2 overs) in their second innings. Mohammad Shami (3-37), Zaheer Khan (2-23) and Ishant Sharma (3-28) wreaked havoc after the Black Caps decided not to enforce the follow-on when India were themselves bowled out for 202 runs in their first innings.
After tea, BJ Watling held the lone hope for the hosts, with only three tailenders accompanying him.
Ishant removed that obstacle from his team’s path, bowling him with the second ball after the break. Three balls later, Ish Sodhi (0) edged to second slip and was caught by Rohit Sharma, as the end neared.
The Indian captain then surprised everyone by throwing the ball to Rohit (0-3), hoping the tailenders would hit out and lose the final wicket.
But when the chance presented itself, MS Dhoni missed a gleeful stumping off Ravindra Jadeja (1-10), giving a life to Neil Wagner (14). In the same over, he again missed stumping Trent Boult (7 not out), with the 100-mark coming up as well as the 400-run lead. Finally, Ishant took the final wicket as Boult was caught in the deep, pulling.
Earlier, thanks to Ross Taylor’s 41 runs (73 balls, four fours, one six), New Zealand struggled to 78 for seven at tea. Starting at 15 for four post-lunch, he and Corey Anderson looked to do some rebuilding.
But their efforts were thwarted by Shami, who bowled a fiery spell of six overs, not allowing the batsmen to settle down. And he got reward for this effort, bowling Anderson (2) in the sixth over after play resumed.
The Black Caps were down to 25 for five with Taylor still at the crease and under tremendous pressure to put forth a proper fourth-innings’ target after choosing not to follow on. BJ Watling gave him support as the two players added 38 runs for the sixth wicket.
But just when they were beginning to look comfortable, Taylor cut one from Zaheer Khan (2-23) to be caught at gully by Ajinkya Rahane.
It was an intense session with runs coming in a trickle and the batsmen looking to survive. The overs went past quickly as Ishant and Jadeja came on for a bit. But with the break looming, skipper Dhoni once again employed Shami in hope of another wicket.
But it was Jadeja who delivered at the other end, sending back Tim Southee (14) even as the tailender was looking to play some attacking shots. Watling was unbeaten on 11 runs (70 balls) as the Black Caps stared at a shock collapse.
Earlier, looking to make use of the new ball, Shami came out firing, with the wickets of both openers. He trapped Hamish Rutherford LBW for a first-ball duck off the last ball of the very first over of the innings, and then, two overs later, he had Peter Fulton (5) caught driving at cover, where Ravindra Jadeja took a regulation catch.
He was once again in action in the sixth over, when he took a screamer of a catch to send back the in-form Williamson, off Zaheer. This was a second stunning catch by the all-rounder after his effort to dismiss McCullum in the first innings.
Jadeja was not done yet, running out the New Zealand skipper in another brilliant fielding display as lunch was taken. This was after McCullum (1) was given a life in the eighth over, when Murali Vijay dropped a dolly at first slip. He was yet to open his account at that time, but couldn’t add a lot to his total.
The morning session began 30 minutes earlier after bad light had stopped play early on day two, with India starting again at 130 for four. Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane were looking to spend more time at the crease after stopping the collapse on the previous evening.
But New Zealand bowled to a plan, pitching the ball up regularly to the two batsmen, who were guilty of looking for drives without settling in.
As a result, in the sixth over of the morning and the 45th of the Indian innings, Rahane (26 runs, 70 balls, two fours) edged to first slip, off Tim Southee and the downfall began. In the next over, Rohit too played a poor shot, attempting a drive, and was bowled by Trent Boult. He top scored with 72 runs, facing 120 balls, with eight fours and one six, but that wasn’t enough on this day.
Skipper Dhoni (10) found the going tough, and edged one through the slips with the fielders not moving. He was on four at that time, but failed to capitalize, edging once again shortly afterwards, off Neil Wagner, and this time keeper BJ Watling made no mistake.
Wagner then cleaned up the rest of the batting line-up, as the Indian tail showcased a shocking lack of application to stay at the wicket and spend some time, to even try to get close to the follow-on mark. Zaheer Khan (14) threw his bat around before edging behind, while Ishant Sharma (0) followed the same approach, though failed to add any runs.
Shami (2) was last man out, as Ravindra Jadeja (30 runs, 44 balls, two fours, one six) was left unbeaten at the other end.
For New Zealand, Wagner was the most successful bowler, finishing with four for 64 from 11 overs. He found ample support coming in from Boult (3-38) and Southee (3-38), with Corey Anderson (0-29), Ish Sodhi (0-13) and Kane Williamson (0-9) not having to do much else.
On day one, India had won the toss and reduced New Zealand to 30 for three, before a 221-run fourth-wicket stand between McCullum and Kane Williamson (113) put them back in control of proceedings.
On day two, McCullum (224) had gone on to complete his second Test double-hundred, after which India were reduced to 10 for three before bad light halted play, two hours later, with the score at 130 for four.
© Cricket World 2014