Kolkata: New Zealand bowlers put India on the backfoot despite fighting half-centuries from Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane, to leave the hosts on 239 for seven Friday in the second Test.
New Zealand’s recalled pace bowler Matt Henry and off-spinner Jeetan Patel shared five wickets between them on the first day of a must-win match for the visitors in Kolkata.
Wriddhiman Saha was on 14 and Ravindra Jadeja was yet to score when bad light stopped play at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens.
Pujara (87) and Rahane (77) put together 141 runs for the fourth wicket after India, who elected to bat first in their 250th home Test, were in trouble early at 46 for three.
New Zealand need to win the Test to keep their series hopes alive after India secured a comprehensive 197-run victory in Kanpur in the first of the three matches.
Henry claimed the scalps of openers Shikhar Dhawan, who disappointed on his return, scoring just one run, and Murali Vijay.
Henry’s effort of 3-35 put behind the disappointment of losing skipper Kane Williamson to viral fever on the morning of the match as Ross Taylor donned the captain’s hat.
“We have a great batting line-up and obviously it is a shame not to have Kane there…It is going to be a tough day with the heat and things like that.
“We just have to keep playing the long game and apply it as best we can. I’m not a batter but we are in a good position and it is going to be an important day tomorrow,” Henry told reporters on Friday.
Trent Boult piled on the pressure to claim the big wicket of Indian skipper Virat Kohli (nine), who was guilty of chasing a wide delivery, as Tom Latham took a splendid catch at gully.
The in-form Pujara, who played a key role in India’s win in Kanpur, then struck his third consecutive half-century of the series.
Coming in at number three, Pujara built his innings patiently and hit 17 boundaries during 219-ball stay at the crease.
Pace bowler Neil Wagner plotted Pujara’s wicket with a consistent line outside the off stump, which finally got the batsman to drive uppishly and be caught at short cover.
“Obviously coming over here you probably don’t expect conditions like that at the start of the day so we knew we had to make the most of that, especially being put in with the ball,” said Henry.
– Two-paced wicket -Rahane, who hit his ninth Test fifty, tackled the New Zealand bowlers with aplomb, until he was done in by Patel’s wily off spin in the final session.
“I think we lost two extra wickets (in the day). Five wickets (at the end of day’s play) would have been ideal on this kind of wicket.
“But if get 75 to hundred runs tomorrow, 325-330 is a good first innings total,” said Rahane.
Ravichandran Ashwin, whose 26-run cameo was laced with 4 boundaries, also tried to counter attack with some aggressive strokeplay, but became Henry’s third victim of the day, trapped lbw.
India, who denied the visitors a wicket in the post-lunch play, lost four of their batsmen in the final session that was dominated by the bowlers.
“It’s not a typical Kolkata wicket, there is something in the wicket here and it’s two-paced. We did not expect this kind of a wicket. But really happy with the way I and Pujara batted,” said Rahane.
“I and Pujara will take the blame after getting 77 and 87 (respectively)… If either one of us would have made a hundred then our position would have been different,” he added.
At the start of the match, World Cup winning captain Kapil Dev rang a bell newly installed at the iconic Eden Gardens, following a similar tradition at Lord’s.