India took a big step toward winning their first Test series in New Zealand since 1968 after racking up a 233-run lead early in their second innings of the third Test yesterday.
India were on 51 for one at stumps on the second day after dismissing New Zealand for 197 in reply to the tourists’ first innings total of 379.
Pace bowler Zaheer Khan did most of the damage, taking five for 65 with a mixture of swinging full pitched balls and a barrage of shorter deliveries.
Offspinner Harbhajan Singh was another of India’s heroes, bowling 23 consecutive overs at a scoring rate of less than two an over to end with three for 43.
Wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni played a captain’s role, taking six catches behind the stumps to support his bowlers on a Basin Reserve pitch that offered more bounce than the flat deck in the drawn second match in Napier.
There were only limited signs of resistance from New Zealand, mostly from Ross Taylor, who top-scored with 42, before he was given out caught behind by umpire Daryl Harper.
An attempted leg glance off Harbhajan ended in Dhoni’s gloves and Harper’s finger went up. While replays suggested Taylor did not get bat on ball, the batsman admitted later he had got a faint nick.
Opening batsman Tim McIntosh made a scratchy 32 before he was surprised by a rising short ball from Khan, which ballooned off the top of his bat to Yuvraj Singh at first slip.
Soon after lunch, New Zealand found themselves struggling at 80-3 and many hopes rested on burly batsman Jesse Ryder, the hero of the second Test with a double century that followed hard on the heels of a century in the series opener.
Ryder’s naturally aggressive instincts have been tempered since his introduction to Test cricket in October last year, but in a lapse of concentration he took a wild swipe at a short pitched Khan ball, sending a simple edge to Dhoni after scoring just 3.
India extended their lead in their second innings with Gautam Gambhir unbeaten at stumps on 28 and Rahul Dravid not out on 9.
Typically aggressive opener Virender Sehwag was the only wicket to fall, caught by Taylor at first slip after a short ball from Chris Martin seamed into him and ballooned off his glove.
Sehwag hit two consecutive fours off Martin before falling for 12 off just seven balls.