Ajinkya Rahane’s maiden Test century helped India take firm control of the second Test as New Zealand lurched to 24-1 at the close of play on the second day at the Basin Reserve yesterday.
The hosts are still 222 runs behind India’s first innings of 438 and face an uphill battle to save the match after opener Peter Fulton was trapped LBW for 1 by Zaheer Khan in the second over of their second innings.
The under pressure Hamish Rutherford was on 18, while Kane Williamson was on 4 at stumps.
Rahane anchored the visitors’ innings with a compact approach in holding up his end as he featured in productive partnerships with Virat Kohli (38) and Mahendra Singh Dhoni (64) to help establish what should be a match-winning lead.
He pulled Corey Anderson to the midwicket fence to reach his century with his 15th boundary and raised his arms in triumph as his teammates stood and applauded. His previous best was 96 against South Africa in Durban.
The 25-year-old opened up after he achieved the milestone, belting two more boundaries in the over and then hitting a six shortly after before he fell to a brilliant one-handed diving catch by Trent Boult at deep cover.
Rahane said he was inspired by words of advice from the recently retired Sachin Tendulkar.
“During his last two Test matches he told me about my batting and he said ‘I’ve been following you, your hard work, your fitness, everything, so just be patient and wait for your chance.’”
Dhoni was intent on pushing the run rate when he came in after Kohli was removed by Neil Wager when the left-arm pacer broke a stubborn partnership with Rahane.
The Indian skipper belted nine fours and a six, including four boundaries off successive balls by Wagner, until he was out getting a glove to a short ball from Boult.
As valuable as Rahane’s innings was to India, New Zealand wicketkeeper B.J. Watling said Dhoni made the difference.
“Dhoni’s counterattack obviously hurt us... It’s going to be a huge challenge. We’re going to have to bat for a long time to get ourselves back in the game.”
The hosts were dismissed for 192 on the first day and will need to bat until at least the fourth day to ensure they can salvage a draw to win the two-match series.
“We just didn’t get it in the areas we needed and didn’t bowl enough good balls,” Boult told Radio Sport after he had taken three of India’s wickets. “We struggled with a bit of both [line and length], and enough pressure wasn’t built from both ends. We are a little bit disappointed as a group and now we’re in a pretty tough situation.”
India had resumed on 100-2 and patiently built their innings throughout the day even though they lost three wickets in quick succession in the first session.
Nightwatchman Ishant Sharma, who took career-best figures of 6-51 in New Zealand’s first innings, ensured his batsmen were not exposed early in the day and was dismissed for 26, Shikhar Dhawan fell two runs short of his third century, while Rohit Sharma played on for a duck.
Kohli was the only wicket to fall in the afternoon after a 63-run partnership with Rahane, who then combined for a 120-run stand with Dhoni.
The India captain upped the run rate after tea, which allowed the visitors to rattle past 400 late in the session.
New Zealand’s second innings began terribly with Fulton not offering a shot to a Zaheer delivery and was trapped in front to leave them in dire straits.