Pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s devastating five-wicket haul after a late batting revival put India firmly in command as they reduced a hapless New Zealand to 128 for 7 on the rain-hit second day of the second Test here on Saturday.
The Indians, resuming at 239/7, produced a purposeful batting performance in the morning session with Wriddhiman Saha (54 not out) scoring his third Test half-century to help the team reach 316 all out in 104.5 overs. In reply, the Kiwis were tottering at 128/7, still 188 runs behind and facing the prospect of another big defeat after the 197-run drubbing in the opening Test in Kanpur.
The wrecker-in chief was Bhuvneshwar with a sensational 5-33, his fourth five-wicket haul in Tests, from 10 overs that broke the back of New Zealand’s batting.
The Kiwis faced 34 overs in all on Saturday after a bulk of the final session was held up due to wet ground conditions and stumps were drawn early because of bad light. It was a turnaround of sorts for India, who had staggered to 239/7 on Friday on a pitch that offered uneven bounce.
But the lower order came up with a confident performance to push India over the 300-run mark, helped to a large extent by Saha’s gritty knock which came off 85 balls, which was laced with seven fours and two hits over the boundary line. With a good total, the Indian bowlers were incisive against their rivals in the post-lunch session, reducing them to 85 for 4.
However, weather played spoilsport close to tea and an early break was taken which eventually lasted two and a half hours. Passing showers of less than 10 minutes were enough to leave the ground unplayable for more than two hours. However, once play got underway, Bhuvneshwar lit up the gloomy atmosphere with his feisty spell.
Included in place of Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar was at his furious best bowling a tidy line and length as he removed stand-in skipper Ross Taylor (36) in his first over after play was resumed following a two and half hours delay. Bowling a beautiful line, Bhuvneshwar dismissed Taylor after he jabbed the ball at first slip and took two wickets in two balls by removing Mitchell Santner (11) and Matt Henry (0) off successive balls.
Mohammed Shami (1/46) bowled with pace and bounce to tighten the noose at the other end.
Reduced to 23/3 shortly after lunch break when Bhuvneshwar castled Henry Nicholls, Taylor and Ronchi (35) put in their best effort to build a partnership but it did not last long with Jadeja (1/17) cutting it short at 62 runs. Ronchi was trapped on his back-foot by Jadeja off a delivery which seemed to be going down the leg but umpire Rod Tucker had other ideas.
In the morning session, the highlight was Saha’s gritty 54 not out — his third Test half-century in India. He was involved in a quick 31-ball 35 last wicket partnership with Shami (14 from 14 balls; 3x4) which took India past 300. Resuming the day at 14, Saha got hit on his elbow by a rising delivery from Matt Henry and was up against an attacking field with a packed slip cordon, a forward short leg and a leg gully. But he was calm, unnerved and slowly came into his own replying to Henry with a delicate boundary dissecting the packed slip cordon as India went past 250.