The Eden Garden wicket continued to confound the batsmen and this time, it was the turn of the New Zealanders to get trapped in the indecisiveness of their poor footwork.
The highly under-rated but extremely effective Wriddhiman Saha in the morning exhibited what self-belief, combined with grit and ability, can achieve. In the afternoon, it was the turn of the two Indian seamers to swing the ball so well that the batsmen were caught in no man’s land, unable to decide whether to go forward or back. As they froze inside the crease, basic errors resulted in the fall of wickets with the scoreboard hardly moving.
The only time it did start moving ahead, a bit rapidly for Indian comfort was when Ross Taylor and Luke Ronchi broke the shackles with some enterprising play, after the fall of three quick wickets. But, just when the Indian spinners were finding the going rough, a wicket fell and rains interrupted play. When it did resume after a long break, the pacers took over once again, making one strike too many to put India in complete command of the Test.
First the Indian tail, or the late order flourished, with Saha leading the way, combining solid defence with aggressive intent to take Indian past that psychological mark of 300. Well as the Kiwi medium pacers bowled, Saha created enough opportunities and spaces to find the gaps and tore into the spin of Santner to provide the Indian score an adequate look.
The control and movement that Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar displayed with the new ball, assisted by a wicket of uncertain bounce, created uncertainty in the minds of the New Zealand openers. Three wickets fell in quick succession, more rapidly than what had happened to India in the first innings and their first innings score of 310 suddenly acquired a healthy look.
Ross Taylor and Luke Ronchi, instead of letting the scoreboard pressure get to them, started stroking the ball with a freedom that the top three had been denied by the impressive opening burst by the seamers.
Spin came immediately into play, but made little impression. The wicket was playing some tricks with the bounce but was not turning. Taylor attacked Ashwin in his first over, though Jadeja with his accuracy kept the run-flow in control.
It was time for the Indian spinners to rethink their strategy, where the ball may not have been turning but the bounce was becoming more and more uneven. A couple of deliveries even squatted.
Ashwin started tossing up the ball more and slowed down its pace as well. Jadeja, as always, relied more on his stifling length, and was finally rewarded with a decision which could have gone either way. He had earlier shown his annoyance with a lbw decision going against him. Ronchi was struck on the pads when the ball appeared hitting him more in line with the stumps than the one which finally got the umpire raise his finger.
Kohli has been quoted as saying that India is willing to reconsider its stand on the DRS and it is time they fall in line with the rest of the world and get on with the game. The fall of Ronchi was also a signal for the clouds to make a short burst and pepper the ground with some light rain that stopped play for around couple of hours.
Play did finally resume in the backdrop of clouds and artificial lights, providing Shami with a platform to unsettle Taylor and Santner with a searing exhibition of genuine pace.The reward was reaped by Bhuvneshwar, who first terminated Taylor’s fighting innings and later got Santner and Matt Henry with successive balls, pushing New Zealand deeper into a quagmire.
The real gain for India on the day’s play has been that they don’t have to always rely on designer spinning tracks to dominate at home. There is more than one dimension to this Indian bowling side.