Indian pitcher Ravichandran Ashwin struck three first shots to put the hosts on course for a decisive victory over New Zealand in the second and final test at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium on Sunday.
The hosts were within five wickets of a 1-0 series victory, with New Zealand reaching 140/5 at the end of the game on matchday three, chasing an unlikely 540 goal and with two days remaining.
It was a much better performance with the bat of the Test World Champions who only managed 62 in their opening innings in response to India’s 325 on a field offering plenty of help to spin bowlers.
Ashwin, third on India’s most successful bowlers with 426 scalps, fired substitute captain Tom Latham LBW before the players left the field early for the tea break due to a technical issue with Spidercam.
The wily 35-year-old returned to fire Will Young and Ross Taylor in the last session to reduce New Zealand to 55/3.
Daryl Mitchell and Henry Nicholls held India at bay with a stand of 73 before left-arm spinner Axar Patel pulled them apart by returning first for an offensive 60.
The touring team’s problems were compounded when goalie-batsman Tom Blundell suffered a moment of brain discoloration and was exhausted without scoring.
Nicholls survived moments of nervousness but went undefeated on 36 with Rachin Ravindra two steps to the end.
Earlier, the hosts declared their second inning on 276/7, ensuring their bowlers had enough time to rule out New Zealand after the opening test at Kanpur ended in an exciting draw, the last pair of hitters from the touring team hanging on in the last session.
A day after becoming just the third pitcher to pick up all 10 wickets in a practice round, Mumbai-born Ajaz Patel picked up four more to bring his game tally to 14.
Left arm spinner Ajaz finally got backing from his fellow slow bowling colleagues with part-time left arm Rachin Ravindra scooping 3/56.
The New Zealand fast bowlers again failed to take a wicket but were able to keep the Indian hitters from scoring freely with a line directed to their body around the wicket.
Resuming matchday three on 69/0, Indian forerunners Mayank Agarwal and Cheteshwar Pujara extended their partnership to 107 before Ajaz dismissed the first.
Agarwal was caught, but not before adding a confident 62 to his score of 150 in the first inning. Pujara also looked set for half a century after failing to score on his last shot, but was caught in the slips for 47.
Regular opener Shubman Gill, who did not strike in his usual stance on Saturday after receiving a blow to the elbow while on the field, also missed half a century by going out on 47, as did Indian captain Virat Kohli who made 36.
All-rounder Axar provided fireworks with the bat in his unbeaten 41, entertaining the Sunday crowd on the ground overlooking the Arabian Sea with four sixes and three fours in their 26-ball innings.
(Edited by : Vijay Anand)