Kanpur: Murali Vijay (64 not out) and Cheteshwar Pujara (50 not out) struck half-centuries as India scored 159 for one, taking a hefty lead of 215 against New Zealand on the third day of the first Test match at the Green Park stadium here on Saturday.
Earlier in the day, spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja ran through New Zealand’s batting line-up that was bowled out for 262. Resuming the day at 153/1, the visitors were floored by left-armer Jadeja (5/73) and off-spinner Ashwin (4/93).
After taking a 56-run first innings lead, India were further driven by the 107-run unbeaten partnership between Pujara and Vijay in a match that was fairly partial to the spinners.
However, credit needs to be given to the spinners who came back strongly on the third day, after a bad second day’s play. Skipper Virat Kohli’s decision of starting the day’s proceedings with spinners paid off well for the hosts.
Resuming the day from 152 for one, Kiwi batters got off to a bad start as both the Indian spinners created problems for them with their turn and bounce.
The disciplined bowling of Ashwin got him a wicket at the start as he plumbed overnight batsman Tom Latham at 58 while Jadeja struck the new batsman Ross Taylor in the very next over via leg before.
Just when the Kiwi batters seemed at ease at the crease, Ashwin produced another beauty to rip off dangerous Kane Williamson’s off stump. New Zealand were now reeling at 170/4 in just eight overs.
The dismissals of Latham (58) and Kane Williamson (70) was crucial as the duo had put up an 135-run stand and was threatening to take the match away.
The Kiwi’s middle order — Luke Ronchi, Mitchell Santner and B.J. Watling — somehow tried to hold their innings together but they only managed to score 38, 32 and 21 respectively.
After that there was no looking back for India as Jadeja ran through the visitor’s lower order, taking three wickets in an over to wrap up the innings.
Jadeja finished with yet another five-for, while Ashwin scalped four wickets as both the spinners together accounted for nine wickets to give the hosts a 56 run lead in the first innings.
India’s openers added 52 before opener Lokesh Rahul’s stay was cut short by leg-spinner Ish Sodhi for 38 runs.
The ball glanced off the high part of the bat and Ross Taylor took an outstanding catch at slip to bring the second session to an end.
Then Pujara and Vijay joined hands and a smooth partnership flourished. Their partnership began with a flurry of boundaries and that little spell of play dashed the Kiwi’s hopes.
The spinners seemed lost in the middle and confused between which line to bowl or which pace to keep.
At the end of the day, Vijay was unbeaten on 64 with seven fours, while Pujara had stroked eight fours during his stay.
Come Sunday, India will look to increase the lead and set a big target for New Zealand to chase in the fourth innings.