It had been 33 years since India won a Test match in New Zealand but the statistic was rendered obsolete after a six-wicket haul from Harbhajan Singh inspired a comprehensive 10-wicket victory at Seddon Park. Daniel Flynn led the defiance with 67 and Brendon McCullum hustled 84 as India eased off after tea. But though the innings defeat was avoided after a 76-run partnership with Iain O'Brien, India needed just 32 balls to knock off the 39 runs needed.
McCullum was decidedly fortunate to survive a leg-before shout from Munaf Patel when he was on three, and Simon Taufel missed a bat-pad catch when he had 67. But those apart, he played his strokes freely, with MS Dhoni not employing too many close-in fielders and more than content to give him singles. With the field spread, he cut the ball with immense power and played a couple of pulls too as the innings defeat was avoided.
O'Brien defended stoutly and hit a couple of boundaries himself as the partnership assumed frustrating proportions. Almost inevitably, it was Harbhajan that provided succour, though there was more than an element of doubt about the bat-pad decision that ended O'Brien's resistance. He could have few complaints though after the third umpire had given him the benefit of a run-out call.
It had taken India almost an hour to break through in the morning but once they did, wickets kept falling at regular intervals. Harbhajan was at the forefront, bowling round the wicket and flighting the ball into the few rough patches. He varied his pace cleverly and the bounce in the pitch made tackling him a most arduous proposition.
Flynn started the day in positive fashion, cutting and pulling Zaheer Khan for fours, but Ross Taylor struggled terribly against Ishant Sharma, who had bowled him in the first innings. It was left to Flynn to keep the scoreboard ticking and he did that with two guided fours behind point when Munaf was introduced into the attack.
It took New Zealand 42 overs to bring up 100 and Flynn then cut Ishant beautifully through cover to bring up his half-century from 118 balls. The applause had barely died down though when Taylor, who had eked out just four from 29 balls, slashed a Munaf delivery straight to Virender Sehwag at gully.
Jesse Ryder was fortunate that the uppish drive with which he got off the mark just evaded Harbhajan at cover, but there was nothing lucky about two ferocious pull strokes that went for four and six off Zaheer. But thoughts of a sensational counterattack, as in the first innings, vanished soon before lunch as Harbhajan came round the wicket to trap him plumb in front.
New Zealand's plight would have been much worse if MS Dhoni had not put down a catch off Flynn when he had made 55. Harbhajan turned away in disappointment as the chance went down, but it was only a matter of time before India made further inroads.
James Franklin, selected on the basis of robust batting form as well as his bowling, never looked at ease, and a scoop to point was safely taken by Munaf. When Flynn was caught at short leg off bat and pad, it brought Daniel Vettori to the crease, but though he played two magnificent off-drives, there was no repeat of the heroics that had saved face in the first innings. Harbhajan arrowed one in at the body and Vettori could only get a thin inside-edge that Dhoni did very well to hold on to after it brushed the thigh.
That gave Harbhajan his 23rd five-wicket haul and it was something of a surprise when Dhoni decided to take the new ball 10 minutes before tea. Though McCullum and O'Brien kept then kept India at bay for an hour, it wasn't a costly gamble, and Sehwag wasn't even required to open as Gautam Gambhir and Rahul Dravid finished things off with a flurry off fours. One more jinx ended by an Indian team that has now won four of its last six Tests.
Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at Cricinfo