One of our top spells as a unit - Zaheer
Zaheer Khan has said that dismissing New Zealand for 105 was one of the best collective Indian bowling efforts he has been part of. The performance brought India back from a first-innings deficit of 301, and Zaheer said the visitors had gained the advantage, having ended the day on 87 for 1 in their pursuit of 407.
"Definitely one of the top spells we have bowled as a unit," Zaheer said. "Brilliant performance by the bowlers. As a bowling unit we clicked. It was a collective effort. That is what is crucial when we get teams out for low totals. Last time I remember was in Trinidad in 2001, (when) we had a similar kind of innings where all the bowlers chipped with three wickets. That was a collective effort."
Ishant Sharma was the most successful of the Indian bowlers with a match haul of nine wickets, and Zaheer said it was good to see him convert his experience of 54 Tests into results. "He has come a long way. It is important that he picks up wickets. He has been around for a while. Definitely has the potential to create that impact at this level and happy that he is among the wickets."
Backing up the bowlers were Ravindra Jadeja and Ajinkya Rahane, whose sharp catches accounted for the key wickets of Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor. India had dropped a few in the first innings, and Zaheer said it was crucial they held them this time. "Important thing was brilliant catching as well in the slip cordon. We held our catches and that really made a difference."
India's lengths were also different to the ones they bowled in the first innings. Their fast bowlers had overdone the short ball as New Zealand racked up 503 but the lengths were fuller in the second innings. Zaheer said different strategies were at work both times. "That was the plan in the first innings. We wanted to be aggressive as a bowling unit," he said. "Bowling bouncers was one of our plans. In the second innings we went in with the approach that we have to focus on bowling areas and that really worked for us."
Zaheer said the pressure created by the Indian attack, and not the Eden Park pitch, was the reason for New Zealand's capitulation. "Pitch is looking good. What really got to them was the pressure I guess and some disciplined bowling by our bowlers. I don't think the pitch has changed a great deal. In fact, it has got better, if at all."
The pitch did not offer much as the ball got older. It was the new ball that produced wickets in the first three innings, and Zaheer said it was crucial to make it count. "With the Kookaburra ball, it is important to get those early breakthroughs and with the new ball there is always a bit more help. It is good that we have seen off the new ball today and tomorrow hopefully will be a better day for us."
India survived the new ball for the loss of only M Vijay and Zaheer said they were in front now. "Definitely. The momentum is with us and we will look to capitalise on that. It was important that we have a good start, which we got today. So it's important to start well tomorrow morning."
Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo