India emerged stronger in the battle of attrition against a gritty New Zealand to take complete control of the second cricket Test by grabbing a 339-run lead, riding on Rohit Sharma’s fluent 82-run knock on day three of the match in Kolkata.
The Indians were pushed hard in the first two sessions but roared back in the final session to be 227/8 at stumps, which were again drawn early at 63.2 overs owing to bad light.
Wriddhiman Saha (39) and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (8) were at the crease when play ended for the day.
Despite the patchy batting performance, the hosts look set to go 2-0 up in the three-match series, a result that would also propel them to the top of the ICC Test rankings.
Earlier, resuming at Saturday’s 128/7, the Black Caps’ first innings wrapped up at 204 helped primarily by comeback-man Jeetan Patel’s run-a-ball 47, which was laced with nine hits to the fence.
The struggle on the difficult-to-negotiate Eden Gardens track, however, was not exclusive to the New Zealanders and the hosts too found the going tough.
The in-form duo of pacer Matt Henry (3/44) and Mitchell Santner (3/51) continued to deliver for New Zealand, especially in the post-lunch session before Virat Kohli’s men gathered themselves in the final session.
Reduced to 91/5, the home team was rescued by Rohit and Saha, who had scored an unbeaten half-century in the first innings as well. The two put on 103 run off 179 deliveries to steer India out of trouble.
Eden Gardens thus once again proved to be Rohit’s happy-hunting ground where he has a debut Test century, an ODI world record 264, two IPL titles for Mumbai Indians, beside a Ranji Trophy double.
Among the top half, Kohli, who has been struggling for some time, produced a fine 65-ball 45, including 7 fours, to announce his return to form before being trapped LBW by Boult off a delivery that kept low because of the unpredictable bounce.
Rohit took it forward from there and hit nine fours and two sixes en route to his second fifty in two Tests, and sixth overall. The 29-year-old’s fluent knock was brought to an end by Santner who induced a faint edge from his bat, caught by Luke Ronchi.
Rohit made his intentions clear by hitting Jeetan Patel for a six over midwicket early in his innings, and when Trent Boult (2/28) was making the ball talk bowling at shoulder height, the Indian counter-attacked with a pull over square leg boundary.
There was a minor blip for Rohit when Patel almost castled the Indian but the delivery missed the off-stump and the Eden did not deny him a half-century.
Earlier, in reply to India’s 316 in the first innings, New Zealand were bundled out for 204 in 53 overs in the first one and half hour’s play.
Playing his first Test after more than three years, No.9 Patel, who was flown in from England to replace an injured Mark Craig, was the top-scorer for New Zealand with his 47 in a 60-run partnership with BJ Watling (25).
Patel’s career-best score took New Zealand past the 200-mark. Senior off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin gave India
the first breakthrough of the day in his first over.
New Zealand, however, did well to survive the opening hour’s play which included a brief 10-minute rain halt.
Patel struck three boundaries in one Ravindra Jadeja and survived an LBW decision after the India spinner was found to have overstepped.
But Ashwin denied him his first International half-century and dismissed Patel when he skied one catch to Shami while trying to clear mid-on.
Mohammed Shami (3/70) then dismissed Watling (25) and Neil Wagner (10) in successive overs to wrap up the tail giving India a 112-run first innings lead.
India’s pace duo of Bhuvneshwar Kumar (5/48) and Shami accounted for eight wickets, while spinners Jadeja and Ashwin took one each.
Brief Score: India 1st innings: 316 New Zealand 1st innings: 204 all out in 53 overs (J S Patel 47; B Kumar 5/48, M Shami 3/70). India 2nd innings: 227 for eight in 63.2 overs (Rohit Sharma 82, Virat Kohli 45, Wriddhiman Saha 39 not out; Matt Henry 3/44, Mitchell Santner 3/51).
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