Rohit Sharma’s fighting half-century helped India close day two of the first Test versus New Zealand in Auckland at 130 for four in reply to the hosts' 503.
When bad-light halted play, he was batting on 67 not out (102 balls, eight fours, one six) and had shared a 79-run stand for the fifth wicket with Ajinkya Rahane (23 not out, 56 balls, two fours) at Eden Park, as the visitors still trail by 373 runs.
Skipper Brendon McCullum’s second Test double-hundred helped his side to a good total of 503 runs in the first innings, after which Trent Boult (2-20) and Tim Southee (1-27) had the visitors in all sorts of trouble early on.
Neil Wagner (1-46) chipped in with a wicket as well. Corey Anderson (0-9), Ish Sodhi (0-13) and Kane Williamson (0-9) were the other bowlers tried out. India need to score 304 runs to avoid the follow-on.
After tea, Murali Vijay and Sharma looked to increase their time spent at the crease and dig out India further. They negotiated the initial barrage successfully but that was until the 20th over after the Indian score had just passed the 50-mark.
Wagner came around the wicket and found a way past his outside edge, knocking his stumps back, as India were once again pegged back at 51 for four.
Rahane came out to pair up with Rohit and provided able support until close of play. It wasn’t long before runs began to flow, especially from the latter’s bat. Rohit took 24 deliveries to score his first run and then his next 30 runs came off only 23 balls. While he kept the score ticking, Rahane gained assurance as he spent more time in the middle and batted solidly.
In the 31st over, India crossed the 100-run mark, while Rohit brought up his fifty off 74 balls, inclusive of seven fours, an over later. Their 50-run partnership also came up in the same over. Reducing daylight meant that the spinners were deployed and the two batsmen opened up to play some shots, before play was called off with 17 overs remaining in the day.
Earlier, Shikhar Dhawan (0) was the first to go, trying to play a straight delivery onto the leg side, but only managing to edge to gully. Cheteshwar Pujara (1) then played an uncharacteristic shot to be caught in the slips, both batsmen falling to Boult.
Then Virat Kohli (4) could not deal with a short ball Southee which clipped his glove and helmet, looping up to second slip. Afterwards, Vijay and Rohit had added 35 runs before tea.
This was after Ishant Sharma took six for 134 as New Zealand were bowled out for 503 (121.4 overs) in the post-lunch session.
McCullum was the last man out for 224 runs, after facing 307 balls, and hitting 29 fours as well as five sixes. He was caught smartly at the boundary by Ravindra Jadeja, thus bringing their first innings to a close. He fell just one short of his previous-best of 225 that was scored against India at Hyderabad in 2010.
After lunch he had added 56 runs for the eighth wicket with Sodhi (23 runs, 27 balls, 3 fours) before Ishant and Jadeja got into the clean-up act. The former had Sodhi caught at second slip by Rohit Sharma, while the latter took his first wicket of the innings, finishing with an unimpressive one for 120.
Zaheer Khan (2-132) didn’t add to his tally from day one, while Mohammad Shami (1-95) didn’t get just rewards for his efforts. Rohit Sharma (0-12) and Virat Kohli (0-4) weren’t used on day two.
In the morning session, starting from the overnight score of 329 for four, it didn’t take much time for McCullum and Corey Anderson to get going. Despite overcast conditions again, they were on top of the Indian bowling from the very outset, looking to score as many runs as possible.
In the third over of the day, the skipper brought up his 150-run mark, while in the next one, Anderson reached his half-century, off 88 balls, with seven fours and one six.
Indeed the left-handed batsman looked more ominous than the grey clouds above, scoring 26 runs off the first 21 balls he faced in the day. He was especially hard on Ishant, clobbering him for three fours in the 96th over, quickly moving on into the sixties.
Perhaps that led to the next bit of action as Ishant changed his line in the 100th over, coming around the wicket, and was able to get an LBW decision in his favour. After putting up 133 runs for the fifth wicket with McCullum, Anderson was dismissed for 77 runs (109 balls, 13 fours, one six) even the ball seemed to float above the leg-stump.
This gave impetus to Ishant who once again found his rhythm and got BJ Watling (1), caught at third slip by Shikhar Dhawan, shortly before the 400-run mark came up in the 104th over.
In the meantime, McCullum reached the milestone of the highest individual score in a Test innings for New Zealand at Eden Park, beating Ian Smith’s 173 also scored against India, way back in 1990.
Later he surpassed his highest score at home, 185 against Bangladesh in 2010.
At the other end, Tim Southee played some attacking cricket to garner quick runs and push India further on the backfoot. With his partner approaching a double-ton, he threw his bat around to smack three fours and two sixes, scoring 28 runs off only 21 balls, before he was bowled by Shami in the 109th over.
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.
© Cricket World 2014