A career-best six-wicket haul by Ishant Sharma put India firmly in charge at stumps on the opening day of the second Test against New Zealand in Wellington yesterday.
New Zealand were rolled for 192 in their first innings and at the close India were 100-2, with Shikhar Dhawan on 71 and Sharma, playing the nighwatchman role, on 3.
Murali Vijay was the first wicket to fall, caught behind by B.J. Watling off Tim Southee for 2. He tried to pull out of the way of a rising delivery, but it cut back sharply to skim his gloves on the way to the wicketkeeper.
Cheteshwar Pujara was out 10 minutes before stumps for 19 when rapped on the pads by Trent Boult.
India’s 100 came from 28 overs as the wicket lost its early feistiness in the late afternoon sun.
New Zealand struggled through 52.5 overs for their 192, with Sharma taking six for 51, following another six-wicket bag in the first Test, while Mohammed Shami finished with four for 70.
Sharma deflected praise of his own performance and said India had learned from the way they dismissed New Zealand for 105 in the second innings of the first Test.
“It’s a team sport. Whatever the team needs from me I do that,” Sharma said. “What I did was bowl in the right areas throughout the day. What we learned from the Auckland second innings was that if you bowl in the good areas and keep it there for a long time, you get rewards.”
New Zealand batsman Kane Williamson said the state of the wicket helped as well.
“It seamed around a bit, and they got the ball to swing nicely and they bowled very well, so it was definitely a good challenge batting first on it and it was nice to scrape together a scrappy total,” Williamson said.
New Zealand had expected a troubled ride from the moment Brendon McCullum lost the toss and they were predictably sent into bat first on the hard, green wicket.
Peter Fulton and Hamish Rutherford, who were both struggling for runs, cautiously negotiated the first half an hour until the introduction of Sharma to the attack turned the game immediately.
In the space of 14 balls, mixing up deliveries of swing and bounce, he reduced New Zealand from 23 without loss to 26-3 and they never recovered with the innings coming to an end shortly after tea.
Only lusty hitting at the tail by debutant Jimmy Neesham and Southee lifted the total close to the 200 mark, after New Zealand at one stage were 133-7.
All-rounder Neesham hit seven fours in his 33, while Southee included three sixes and a four in his 32.
Sharma’s opening burst claimed Rutherford (12), Fulton (13) and new cap Tom Latham, deputizing for New Zealand’s unavailable star performer Ross Taylor, who was gone for a duck after facing eight balls.
Shami came back for his second spell to remove McCullum for 8 to have New Zealand 50-4 at lunch.
Corey Anderson (24) and Watling (0) went soon after lunch, before Kane Williamson, who had been at the crease since the fall of the first wicket, and Neesham compiled New Zealand’s best partnership of 47 for the seventh wicket.
Williamson was given out on 15 and 23 only to be recalled both times when replays showed Zaheer Khan and then Sharma had claimed his wicket off no-balls.