Sunday was the third time New Zealand were denied parity by India's lower order, which has been crucial in a low-scoring series. In the first innings in Kanpur, India's sixth wicket added 52 and the last 41. In response New Zealand lost their last five wickets for seven runs. In Kolkata, Wriddhiman Saha led the lower-order fightback, taking India from 200 for 6 to 316. In the second innings, India have exceeded those last two comebacks by converting 106 for 6 into 227 for 8. New Zealand's leading bowler, Trent Boult, though, feels they are not doing much wrong against the lower order.
"Not necessarily," Boult said when asked if they could have done much differently to prevent another frustrating resistance from India's lower order. "We are trying to apply the pressure for as long as we can and not let off at all throughout the whole innings. But we know and realise they are going to put partnerships together, and we just can't afford to get frustrated by that. It is still a challenge as a bowling unit to not drift and release that pressure, but it is something we are trying to get much better at."
Some of it could be put down to the exhaustion in the heat. "I have to put these down as some of the tougher conditions I've ever played in in my career," Boult said. "I'm not too sure what it looks like on TV, but it is pretty taxing. Obviously the dryness in the wicket and in the air is pretty tough. The last session is probably the easiest session in terms of heat. [But] You are just sapped by the time that comes around.
"The guys did extremely well to put the balls in the areas we did and apply that pressure. It was spoken in the huddle that we weren't just going to let them drift away with the game with a figure in mind. We wanted to put pressure on them and make them earn every run. I think we did very well."
Thanks to Jeetan Patel and BJ Watling's batting at the start of the day and the six early wickets, New Zealand fought their way back, but perhaps it was that deficit that meant India weren't under the pressure New Zealand would have wanted to put them under. It was mostly on day two that they let the game slip with India's lower-order runs and their own collapses with rain and bad light around.
"It's very disappointing but that is done now and we can't do anything about it," Boult said of the second day. "They had some good conditions there last night to put us under pretty big pressure with the ball. Bhuvi [Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who took five wickets] bowled very well, and that has played a big part in the game. But we are not just going to roll over, we've fought very nicely to get ourselves back in the position we are in now."
Boult said New Zealand would need every bit of skill with the bat to fight back again in this Test. "We have the guys with the ability to bat long periods of time," Boult said. "In terms of the wicket there is a little bit of variation in bounce and that is obviously going to be in the back of a few of our minds. We have to take it small steps at a time. If we can tick off our goals of trying to bat for half a session, then a session and just keep them out there and try to build like that. Anything that is set is definitely achievable."
They could learn from Jeetan Patel's innings in the morning, Boult said. "He did very well. It's his first in a wee while and to come back and play an innings like that was good to watch. The rest of us can take a leaf out of his book and try to apply yourself like he did because they were valuable runs."