New Zealand finished day two of the second Test against India in Wellington on 24 for one, needing another 223 runs to make the visitors bat again after Ajinkya Rahane scored a maiden century for the tourists.
For the Black Caps, Hamish Rutherford (18 not out, 32 balls, three fours) and Kane Williamson (4 not out, 17 balls) were at the crease, with Peter Fulton (1) removed early by Zaheer Khan (1-7).
Ishant Sharma (0-9) and Mohammad Shami (0-8) searched for more breakthroughs, but weren’t successful.
Earlier, in the post-tea session, Rahane bettered his previous best score of 96 scored at Durban versus South Africa in December, to 118 as India took a handsome 246-run lead, having dismissed the Black Caps for 192 in their first effort.
The Mumbai batsman put on a 120-run seventh-wicket stand with skipper MS Dhoni (68 runs, 86 balls, nine fours, one six) as India pressed home their advantage in the post-tea session, even as the innings was wrapped up. Tim Southee (3-93), Trent Boult (3-99) and Neil Wagner (3-106) shared the wickets between them, with James Neesham (1-62) had picked up his sole wicket in the morning. Corey Anderson (0-66) went wicketless.
Starting off at 301 for six after tea, Rahane and Dhoni scored runs at a quick clip, especially the latter. The Indian captain brought up his 29th Test fifty, off 64 balls with six fours and one six, in the 86th over.
Two overs later they brought up their 100-run partnership. Just as it was looking too easy for the Indian batsmen, Dhoni was strangled down the leg-side and caught by keeper BJ Watling off Boult in the 93rd over.
Ravindra Jadeja (26 runs, 16 balls, six fours) came to the crease and started hitting out, living by the sword and dying by it, in the 97th over. He added 37 runs with Rahane who was now beginning to run out of partners, but Zaheer hung around long enough for the batsman to complete his richly deserved maiden hundred, coming off 149 balls, with 15 fours.
He became the 76th Indian batsman to score a Test century and then changed gears to add 38 quick runs with Zaheer, who was ruled not out in the 101st over when Wagner bowled a back-foot no ball. He was on seven at that time and went on to score 22 runs (19 balls, 4 fours).
At the other end, Rahane’s superb innings was brought to an end by an equally stupendous one-handed catch in the deep by Boult in the 102nd over. An over later, India were bowled out, with Zaheer edging behind. Mohammad Shami (0) was the unbeaten batsman.
Earlier, Rahane had helped India finish at 301 for six at tea-time. Along with Virat Kohli, he looked to bat for time and get a substantial lead for the team. They batted with confidence and picked their areas to score.
While the former looked to attack, the latter played a solid game, and neither bothered about the run-rate.
They brought up their 50-run partnership in the 62nd over and yet didn’t change gears, looking set for a longer innings together. But then against the run of play, Wagner (1-75) got Kohli driving and caught at short cover, much to the dismay of the batsman. He was out for 38 runs (93 balls, four fours).
Dhoni then came to the crease and it was an important passage of play for India thereafter, because any more wickets would have meant the tail being exposed to the new ball. The new batsman played an attacking game first up and then settled down to build a partnership with Rahane.
The latter brought up his half-century, off 93 balls with seven fours, and their 50-run partnership for the seventh wicket in the 78th over.
The new ball was taken in the 81st over, immediately after it became due, but the two set batsmen continued to deny New Zealand, bringing up the 300 for India at the stroke of tea.
Earlier, Shikhar Dhawan missed a second consecutive Test hundred as India were placed at 201 for five (56 overs) at lunch. He and Ishant Sharma started the day at the overnight score of 100 for two, looking to soften up the ball which was still relatively new with only 28 overs behind it.
Ishant continued to face a hostile barrage from the bowlers who faltered in not bowling full to him, and trying to bounce him out.
This allowed him to open up and spend more time at the wicket. He struck three valiant fours and scored 26 runs (50 balls) putting on 52 runs with Dhawan for the third wicket. They reached this mark in good time, off only 73 balls, in the 37th over of the innings.
But it came to an end that very same over, with Ishant edging Boult behind and was caught handsomely by keeper Watling.
Dhawan had started watchfully but even he started stroking fluently, with the 150-mark coming up for India in the 42nd over. he had been joined in the middle by Kohli and this small passage of play saw some funny cricket by the two batsmen, as they made a variety of mistakes, ranging from chasing wide deliveries to a couple of mix-ups in between the wickets.
It resulted in a wicket then, and a heartbreak for Dhawan, who fell two runs short of a second consecutive Test hundred. He went for a drive against a length delivery bowled by Southee and was caught behind, again by the keeper.
He scored 98 runs, off 127 balls, with 14 fours and one six.
Three runs later, it became a wobbly situation for India as Rohit Sharma (0) was once again dismissed playing a loose shot. He tried to drive a really wide delivery, without any particular feet movement, and managed to play onto his stumps, giving debutant Neesham his first Test wicket.
The double blow meant New Zealand could still have come back into the game, especially when the ball was changed soon afterwards. But Kohli and Rahane grafted well enough to avoid any further damage until the session break.
Shortly before the interval, in the 53rd over, India went past the Black Caps’ total, and then the 200-mark came up at the stroke of lunch.
On day one, Dhoni had won his seventh straight toss on the tour and elected to bowl first on a green pitch, after which Ishant Sharma took his best Test figures of six for 51 to bowl New Zealand out for 192.
Dhawan’s half-century had then put India in control at stumps.
New Zealand won the opening Test in Auckland by 40 runs.
© Cricket World 2014