India surge through impressive Ishant
India 100 for 2 (Dhawan 71*) trail New Zealand 192 (Williamson 47, Ishant 6-51, Shami 4-70) by 92 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
The much-maligned Ishant Sharma continued to confound his critics by registering his personal best figures of 6 for 51 - also the best figures by an Indian quick not opening the bowling - to bowl New Zealand out for 192. Most crucial was his morning spell of 9-2-14-3 that helped India turn their morning around after the New Zealand openers had moved along to 23 without any incident. Despite New Zealand's lower-order counterattack from 86 for 6, the Indian batsmen played stodgily to make sure that didn't translate into any sort of momentum for the hosts.
India had to contend with the misfortune of having dismissed Kane Williamson twice off no-balls before eventually getting him for 47, but spare a thought for Brendon McCullum too. He has been at the receiving end of MS Dhoni's form at the toss, but this is where he needed Dhoni to call wrong more than ever. He had been delivered the green pitch he wanted, but he had to defend the series lead without the services of Ross Taylor who is away for his child's birth.
Dhoni, though, has now won 12 in a row in completed international matches. He has won every toss on this trip, but not a single match, and needed the best from his bowlers to correct that. They had the conditions to play with, which were even tougher than those on the first morning in Auckland. Almost every ball pitched up either swung or seamed or both. All you needed to do was bowl just short of half-volley length and watch the ball trouble the batsmen. Strangely, though, the bowler who flies in the face of such strategies began the slide for New Zealand.
Hamish Rutherford, batting old-style in his new old-fashioned mo', and Peter Fulton had negotiated seven overs without looking in trouble. In the eighth over came on Ishant, and he began to pitch short of a length. In his second, he bowled an accurate bouncer at Rutherford, who couldn't get out of the way in time. Fulton reprised his trademark dismissal: neither forward nor back, and plumb in front. Out walked debutant Tom Latham. Eight balls later he had nicked Ishant off, scoring exactly as many as Taylor had in the first innings in Auckland.
India's strategy until then had been clear: Zaheer was doing the holding job, bowling eight tight overs in his first spell for 18 runs to facilitate attack from the other end. However, now we were getting into the crucial partnership between Williamson and McCullum, the duo that had rescued New Zealand from a similar start in Auckland. The two batted with similar purpose here, and Mohammed Shami soon replaced Zaheer.
Despite a start here, McCullum soon found out his luck hadn't changed much. He had added 19 with Williamson when he got a half-volley from Shami, but his manner of walking after hitting it in the air to mid-off suggested the ball still had time to stop in the pitch a little. Williamson, though, is going through a prolonged spell of good fortune. In Auckland, he was dropped pretty early. Here he got a beauty from Zaheer last ball before lunch, edged it, was caught, but discovered after TV replays that Zaheer had nothing behind the crease when he landed. Williamson was 15 then. By the time he reached 23, Corey Anderson was fallen for 24 trying to counterattack and BJ Watling for a duck. When he reached 23, Williamson nearly made it 87 for 7 when he bat-padded Ishant to short leg.
Replays showed another act of over-stepping, Ishant had missed out on a sixth wicket, and New Zealand were on the cusp beginning a counterattack. The next 17.1 overs brought New Zealand 105 runs for four wickets. Williamson found freedom, debutant Jimmy Neesham struck 33 off 35, and Tim Southee struck three sixes in his run-a-ball 32. Southee carried that over into his bowling, dismissing M Vijay with a vicious incutter in his first over.
Shikhar Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara, though, batted with discipline, and saw off the new ball. He covered Southee's swing towards him well, left Trent Boult's away swing alone, and swayed out of Neil Wagner's bouncers. Once settled, Dhawan unfurled some sensational shots to run away with the initiative. His cuts from just outside off, the body arching away to make room, were almost outrageous. One particular over of Wagner, when he whipped, cut and upper-cut successive deliveries for four, four and six, would have been a small measure of retribution for that screamer from Wagner that turned the Auckland chase around. In all, Dhawan accelerated from 29 off 54 to 71 off 87.
Just when it began to look easy for India, though, Boult came back and removed Pujara with a beautiful inswinger to suggest there was life in the pitch yet. However, the last act belonged, fittingly, to Ishant, who negotiated 16 awkward deliveries to protect Dhawan and Virat Kohli.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo