Indian middle-order revelled in summer sunshine as the home team overcame a shaky start to post 283 for five at stumps in reply to New Zealand’s first innings total of 365 on the second day of the second cricket Test here Saturday.
After losing four wickets, including those of Virender Sehwag (43) and maestro Sachin Tendulkar (17) for 80, India recovered on the backs of Virat Kohli (93 batting), Suresh Raina (55) and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (46 batting).
For the Kiwis, it was heartbreak after making early inroads into the Indian line-up through seamers Tim Southee (3 for 35) and Doug Bracewell (2 for 66) only to let the hosts off the hook even as a few other edges landed short of the fielders.
The 23-year old Southee was the pick of the bowlers while Bracewell scalped a couple -- those of Sehwag and Tendulkar in five balls after lunch -- sending shivers down the Indian spine, but with the pitch rolling out well in bright sunshine, the Indian batting prospered.
Kohli, in sight of his second century in 10 Tests, yet again showcased his growing maturity to play yet another fine knock while another youngster, Raina also came good though he failed to convert a good start.
The start of the Indian response was rather tepid and uncertain as neither Sehwag nor Gautam Gambhir (2) looked the part in conditions that aided swing and movement off the deck.
Gambhir, dropped in the slips the previous over by Brendon McCullum, departed, bowled by Southee whose in-coming delivery clipped the off-bail. Cheteshwar Pujara (9) also did not look settled and was tempted into hooking Southee to square-leg where Trent Boult took an easy catch.
If India hoped that the Sehwag-Sachin partnership would flourish, then Bracewell denied such optimism with a two-over spell after lunch when he dismissed both in the space of five deliveries.
Sehwag, having hit the previous delivery to the square-leg boundary, flicked uppishly to Daniel Flynn at mid-wicket while in the next over, Tendulkar after a trademark straight driven four, was bowled through the gate off the next ball as India slid to 80 for four.
It brought Raina and Kohli together, and the two proceeded to carve the Kiwi bowling. Raina, in particular, was the more aggressive, smashing Bracewell for three consecutive boundaries while Kohli, after a sedate start, joined the run feast.
The duo flourished as the Kiwi attack lost its earlier bite, though on occasions their tall seamers troubled the batsmen with steep bounce and movement. It was off-spinner Jeetan Patel who provided a lot of freedom as both Raina and Kohli took toll of his bowling.
The pair went for tea promising much more, but on resumption, Southee broke the partnership - that had put on 99 runs - by having Raina caught down the leg-side by the acrobatic ‘keeper Kruger van Wyk.
The advent of Dhoni triggered another flood of runs as the skipper slammed Patel for two consecutive sixes and Kohli, batting quite beautifully, notched his fifth half-century in 10 Tests with some eye-catching drives on both sides of the track that had eased up considerably in warm afternoon sunshine.
After the initial flurry of strokes, Dhoni and Kohli began a relatively quiet period of consolidation by eschewing risk while wearing down the bowlers who appeared increasingly despondent as the partnership grew in stature, putting on 104 runs for the unfinished sixth wicket by close.
Earlier, the Kiwi resistance folded up without a whimper after the early exit of van Wyk (71) who added just eight runs to his overnight score when he edged Zaheer to Raina in the slips.
At the other end, Bracewell (43), who had put on 99 runs for the seventh wicket with van Wyk, too departed while backing up and caught outside the crease when Southee’s push ricocheted on to the stumps off Zaheer.
The end came soon after as Patel (0) lasted a mere two balls, slashing Yadav to third man Gambhir and Southee (17) was the last man out, trapped leg before by Ojha.