There was good news for New Zealand when Kane Williamson came to address the pre-Test press conference. He still didn't confirm whether he will play in Indore after missing the Kolkata Test because of illness, but he will be key to one area New Zealand look to set right: first-innings total. In India, you do all your peaceful scoring in the first innings. The second is havoc. You don't want yourself to be making up ground.
"It has shown in the first innings of each Test match that the first innings has been the most vital as batting has got harder as the game has gone on," Williamson said. "We'll still need to have another look at the surface here but were are still expecting first innings to be important again."
Apart from preferably winning the toss on a surface that he described as "bare at the ends" and 'soft", Williamson will be expected to push that first innings a little further after they had shown a bit of promise at different times.
"It is one of those fine lines where there have been some good bits but the good bits haven't happened for long enough," Williamson said. "Those 240-250 scores need to be 300-350. In saying that we are still to see this wicket, it might be more or it might be less, we don't know just yet. But certainly the last two games if we could have pushed up our first-innings total that little bit further, it would have helped us out a huge amount."
This is where India can draw satisfaction. They haven't let New Zealand run away even when they have had partnerships. India's captain Virat Kohli said it was crucial to deal well with such periods. "One thing that stands out for me as a learning is how to control a session that's not going your way," Kohli said. "When you are taking wickets, you can afford to attack. But when you are not taking wickets, how to stop runs and still maintain enough pressure for you to come in the session and make breakthroughs.
"The session when the other team is batting well, you should know how to control runs and at the same time not go negative. There is very thin line, which I think if you maintain more often than not you will come back in the next session and pull things back. That is the biggest learning. Not to go one-dimensional when runs are scored and the other team is batting well."
One of the reasons why India have been able to keep New Zealand in check with just four bowlers is Mohammed Shami's performance: eight wickets at an average of 21.12. Kohli paid tribute to Shami's return to fitness. "Shami is someone who's come back very well," Kohli said. "He has worked very hard on his fitness as well. You can see he's able to bowl those five-six over spells now, and he can run in... Bigger momentum and then he can pick up two wickets on any surface. That's the kind of skill he has, so as captain I feel that he's a very important bowler for us in this full season and in future as well. But looking at the near future, his fitness and rhythm is very, very important. As you said, he's a strike bowler and whenever he comes in he makes something regardless of the surface that we're playing on."