Left-arm spinner Axar Patel rocked the New Zealand middle-order in the post-lunch session with three quick wickets as India made a strong comeback to stifle the visitors to 249 for 6 at tea on the third day of the opening Test.
While Umesh Yadav (16-3-41-1) should get the credit for bringing India back in the contest with Kane Williamson (18)’s wicket at the stroke of lunch, a rejuvenated Axar (24-4-46-3) removed Ross Taylor (11), Henry Nicholls (2) and opener Tom Lathan (95 off 282 balls) within a space of 13 runs to completely upset their rhythm.
Ravindra Jadeja (26-8-48-1) then got into the act by removing rookie Rachin Ravindra (13), breaching through his defence as New Zealand suddenly slumped to 241 for 6 from a comfortable 197 for one.
The second session belonged to India as they got four wickets for just 52 runs.
Tom Blundell (10 batting off 73 balls) is trying to survive but that’s not helping New Zealand’s cause as India would be happy with a first innings lead of anything in the range between 50 to 60 runs considering the pitch isn’t still very conducive for rolling over opposition.
It was the second new ball did the trick just before lunch as Umesh pitched one on line off-stump, which cut back enough to find Williamson’s pads just when he was showing signs of settling down having scored 18 off 64 balls.
Earlier, Opener Will Young (89 off 214 balls) missed out on what would have been his maiden Test century as Ravichandran Ashwin (37-9-76-1) gave the much-needed breakthrough.
But it was in the post-lunch session that Axar finally had a classical left-arm spinner’s delivery. There was a delivery that had a bit of air and pitched on length drawing Taylor forward and then turned enough to take an outside edge into substitute keeper K S Bharat’s gloves.
Nicholls also tried sweeping a much fuller delivery which turned back in and he was found leg before.
Having understood that on a slower track like this one the pace off the pitch needed to increase, Axar gave it a tweak at decent clip which saw Latham beaten all ends up. Bharat fumbled before he could effect the stumping.
Prior to that, Latham hardly had any lapse of concentration as he hit played deliveries worth 47 overs of the New Zealand innings.
The pitch on the third day didn’t change its character as it stayed low and slow but the Indian spinners did better as the time progressed by varying the pace of their deliveries.
During the session, Ashwin was seen involved in an animated discussion with umpire Nitin Menon after he decided to come round the wicket against Williamson and was seen walking on the dangerous area on his follow-through and also in the process guarding the umpire’s view.
The intention was to create a few roughs with his bowling spikes in the region where if the ball lands, it would turn away from the dogged Latham.
Menon having understood the motive had a word with Ashwin and skipper Ajinkya Rahane and after some discussions, normalcy prevailed.