Wellington: India had to put in some lengthy overtime to work its way back into the first cricket test against New Zealand on Saturday after its paltry innings of 165 on the second day.
When stumps were finally drawn early because of bad light and after a marathon final session, New Zealand was 216-5, with an overall lead of 51. B.J. Watling was 14 not out and Colin de Grandhomme 4.
New Zealand had been in a much stronger position near the start of the session when Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor shared a 93-run partnership which steered it past India’s total with only two wickets down.
Ishant Sharma led India’s fightback as it captured the wickets of Williamson, Taylor and Henry Nicholls in the 32 overs bowled after tea to bring the match much closer to parity.
Williamson made 89 and Taylor 44 in his 100th test but the commanding position their partnership had given New Zealand was slightly frittered away before light intervened with 11 overs still to be bowled.
Ball has mainly dominated bat from the moment New Zealand won the toss and bowled and the period in which Taylor and Williamson were together was the only time in the match when the batsmen seemed in control.
Williamson posted his 32nd half century in tests but fell short of a century and Taylor seemed on course for his 34th half century before he also came up short of that milestone.
Sharma was largely responsible for the turnaround. He dispelled any doubts about his fitness after an ankle injury when he claimed the first three New Zealand wickets to fall; Tom Latham (11), Tom Blundell (30) and Taylor.
Taylor’s innings ended when he was surprised by a ball from Sharma that moved sharply off a length and which he fended from a glove to Cheteshwara Pujara at short leg.
The India bowlers clamped down on New Zealand’s run rate late in the day and that built pressure. Williamson had played some fine drives and cuts behind point but he began to find runs harder to come by and he fell to a soft dismissal, chipping a ball from Mohammed Shami to substitute fielder Ravindra Jadeja at cover.
Nicholls battled through to 17 and then was out within two overs of stumps, caught by Virat Kohli from the bowling of Ravi Ashwin.
Earlier, Tim Southee and debutant Kyle Jamieson shared eight wickets as New Zealand bowled out India in 68 overs. India resumed at 122-5 and New Zealand needed only 13.1 overs and 50 minutes to wrap up its first innings, taking 5-43
Southee took 4-49 and Jamieson, who had three wickets by the end of the first day, took 4-39 as India struggled against seam and swing.
The quick dissolution of the Indian first innings began Saturday with the runout of Pant, who was 19 when he sacrificed himself after a classic mix-up Ajinkya Rahane.
Rahane forced a short ball from Southee towards Ajaz Patel at point and set off. Pant said no but Rahane came on anyway. Patel had only one stump to aim at but his lobbed throw hit directly and Pant was left well short of his ground.
Ashwin was out next ball, Southee’s first wicket in a superb spell Saturday. Bowling from wide on the crease, Southee angled a full delivery towards middle stump and the ball straightened past the bat and hit off.
Rahane, unsettled by the run out of Pant, went next. Southee again bowled from wide on the crease; Rahane got into line and tried to leave but reacted too late. The ball took the inside edge and just carried to wicketkeeper Watling.
Sharma became the fourth wicket in Jamieson’s outstanding debut when he fended at a shorter ball from the tall fast bowler and was caught by Watling.
Shami offered numerous chances on his way to 21 from 20 balls before Southee ended his and India’s innings when he skied a ball to point.