New Zealand v India, 2nd Test, Wellington, 2nd day February 15, 2014

India stride towards rare win through Rahane ton


New Zealand 192 and 24 for 1 trail India 438 (Rahane 118, Dhawan 98, Dhoni 68) by 222 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

For the first time on the tour, India began the day in ascendency, and they capitalised by making giant strides towards a series-levelling win, which if achieved will be their first overseas win since June 2011. At the centre of India's dominance, of a day during which they threatened to leave the door ajar, was Ajinkya Rahane, who brought up his maiden Test century after enduring moments of drama with the notoriously unhelpful Zaheer Khan for company. When Rahane came in to bat, India had lost two quick wickets to be five down and were still 27 behind, but he soothed nerves and exorcised the haunting memories of Trent Bridge 2011 during a full-of-intent partnership of 120 with MS Dhoni in 24.1 overs, which took India to their seventh-highest lead away from home.

This was only the sixth away century by an Indian No. 7, but also it was a first century for someone who had spent years amassing close to 6000 first-class runs before he was even given a chance to score one for India. Rahane's celebration betrayed no frustration or anger you would associate with a modern batsman who has had to wait for so long. His innings was equally level-headed. He could just as easily have become part of a collapse, and made Dhoni lament another big moment lost, which has happened way too often with India from home.

Despite Ishant Sharma's annoying 40-minute stay in the morning, despite Shikhar Dhawan's continuance of his charge, India had that familiar feeling of an impending collapse when they lost three wickets for 24 runs around the first-hour mark. It included the wicket of Dhawan two runs short of what would have been a third century to a clever scrambled-seam offcutter from Tim Southee. Rohit Sharma had just dragged on a wide half-volley from debutant Jimmy Neesham. India needed something solid especially given how Virat Kohli was not looking his solid self on a day that he would have sensed domination around the corner.

As Kohli played and missed a little in pursuit of that domination, Rahane began a proper Test innings, not playing away from the body, happy to nurdle and deflect, and using soft hands when he did drive. The soft hands showed in how two edges didn't go to hand, either side of his half-century. New Zealand, though, looked happy to give him the singles he could take, and play on India's patience. By the time the lead reached 36, Neil Wagner had frustrated Kohli so much with his dry bowling that the batsman gave short cover a simple catch. Wagner's figures in that spell then: 6-3-7-1.

Rahane was 33 off 71 then, and New Zealand would have been happy to let him score at that rate if they could go through the rest of the suspect batting. With Dhoni, they had another think coming. He came in and launched a calculated assault, hitting Wagner for four successive fours: drive through cover, pull through square leg, cut to point, loft over mid-off . This was a crucial phase because the new ball at that time was only 12 overs away, and if New Zealand could have kept India quiet until then, they would have fancied restricting the lead to around 100.

That initial attack, though, settled things down, and Rahane could continue playing his natural game. And he did so beautifully. The on-drives and cover-drives were sights to behold. The acceleration began to happen without an apparent effort to do so. As Rahane became a little more adventurous, New Zealand set back even more, and by the time the new ball was claimed, his half-century had been brought up and the lead approached 100.

Dhoni managed to attack the new ball too, which was the best possible outcome for India. It travelled faster, and both the batsmen cashed in. It all began with his lashing cut to the second delivery he took with that new ball, and by the time Rahane hit Boult for back-to-back boundaries in the 89th over India had spent their longest in this series without losing a wicket to the new ball. Dhoni, though, had taken a blow to his hand, and Boult followed him there, drawing out a gloved catch down the leg side to end his innings 32 short of what could have been his first century outside Asia.

Rahane, though, kept his head even though all around him were losing theirs. Ravindra Jadeja went bang-bang for his 26 off 16, Zaheer tried his best to get out and leave Rahane in the 90s with the No. 11, and the umpires called a Wagner no-ball that didn't quite look like one after having missed quite a few earlier in the day. Rahane enjoyed a slice of luck, too, when he tried to work the last ball of an over to leg from outside off, and the leading edge flew over gully. The shot, necessitated by Zaheer's presence at the other end, took him to 96, and the hundred came up without further drama.

The drama for the day was not done yet as the struggling Peter Fulton padded up to Zaheer, and was trapped lbw. New Zealand ended the day needing 222 to make India bat again.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sreedhar on February 16, 2014, 0:33 GMT

    In Cricket ,loosing a wicket at the stroke of Lunch is considered to be a bad Omen for the batting side & naturally becomes a good omen for the fielding side. Having lost 4 Wickets before Lunch on third day& 2 full sessions today& Two more playing days left,NZ Is certainly facing a defeat.But as is considered by many enthusisstics as an innings defeat in the offing for them does not appear to be correct. NZ should never be their Soil they are lethal.Maccullum is still there.there are 6 more able players to give him support.We can not ignore Southee who of late is tending to be named as an All Rounder .Above all the record maker Anderson could pause problem for the Indians. So as far as I am concernedI rule out an Innings defeat for the New Zealanders. The Indian when they take the Batting a second time ,should ensure that they meet the Target unlike the First Testwhich was very easy to win& lost

  • Dummy4 on February 15, 2014, 23:37 GMT

    Shami is not hitting the right length. He has got great potential but he is always trying too much by trying different length. He should learn fron kiwi bowlers hw they frustrate Kohli and grab his wicket. Shamm must concentrate on one side bowling.

  • ESPN on February 15, 2014, 23:32 GMT

    See what could have happened in Auckland if Ajyinka hadnt been sawnoff by the umpires in the Auckland test. The incompetent umpires gave Dhoni out off a noball. In Wellington Wagner got away with colossal number of no balls due incompetent umpires costing India runs.

  • tanveer on February 15, 2014, 22:08 GMT

    only a miracle can save NZ in this test. This young Indian team is peaking and it looks like they will dominate world cricket like the West Indies did in the eighties.

  • SATISH CHANDER on February 15, 2014, 21:05 GMT

    @LAKingsFan: Agreed with you that Nohit sharma should bat at # 6 or even be removed from the team. BUT, i don't agree that Gambhir should be brought in. We have already seen how he failed in 2011 Eng and Aus series and given he is still failing in Ranji (He has not exactly set Ranji on fire with this performances), I do not think he is good enough to come back. We can try other openers maybe who who have been more prolific in Ranji.

  • Raj on February 15, 2014, 20:27 GMT

    There are a few experiments that have gone wrong and must be put to rest: 1) Rahane as ODI and T20 openers; Rahane as middle order ODI batsman; and now that he was unable to score in both positions, there are repeated calls to bring him back as opener (international cricket is NOT IPL and he is NOT an opener) 2) Rohit from ODI to Test to middle order to an opener. After all these failed attempts it is surprising how he is carrying on. Not just that, people still want to try him out in the middle order all over again. Hello, why can't selectors look back at ten innings and take a decision? Oh wait, his 50-run odd scores had 2-3 lives. 3) D. Karthik kick started ICC CT campaign for the team. But soon after the finals he was lost in oblivion. He has only himself to blame for poor scores. But if Rohit is persisted with for so many years what has Karthik done wrong? He is more consistent and free-flowing batsman than Rohit is at the top. For his height he is a great fit for WC next year

  • Suresh on February 15, 2014, 20:26 GMT

    Rahane should bat at #5,period. Nohit Sharma or anyone who's gonna be in the team should bat at #6. I think Gambhir should be brought to open both in test and ODIs.

  • cool on February 15, 2014, 20:19 GMT

    Problem is rohit isn't learning from his mistakes keeps poking widths deliveries onto stumps.recently we hav seen that pujara who sort of did the same mistake chasing wide deliveries rectified himself in the next match and scored big, even Dhawan curbed his upper cut & is doing wonders now. Vijay isn't bad either he definitely has solid technique. But rohit is reluctant to learn, but ones he rectifies his mistakes this team sure will do wonders in Eng & Oz.Bowling form is always a plus for Ind.

  • Raj on February 15, 2014, 20:06 GMT

    RAHANE FOR TESTS!! What a knock!

    He shows his class as a middle order (#5) test batsman. He so belongs here. Why unnecessarily force him in ODI/T20 when there is no dearth of batting talent out there.

    He is NOT an ODI or T20 player and he is NOT an opener. Preserve test cricket and preserve Vijay, Pujara, Rahane with Shikar, Kohli and Ishant forming the core.

    Really impressed with Indian batting in test matches in SA and NZ. The young and not so experienced team has done a fabulous job.

  • varun reddy on February 15, 2014, 19:41 GMT

    loved his cover drives.seen his batting first time in test cricket yesterday and impressed with him game

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