Self-control serves one the best in challenging times. When variable bounce of the Eden Gardens track raised the difficulty level manifold, Bhuvneshwar Kumar plied his trade with utmost control to reap rich dividend and guide India to a position of strength on the second day of the second Test between India and New Zealand here on Saturday.
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Adept at the craft of swinging the cricket ball in favourable conditions, Bhuvneshwar claimed five wickets for 33 runs , his first five-for at home and fourth overall, and enabled the hosts to tighten the screw on the Black Caps. Looking for a revival, New Zealand was at 128 for seven in 34 overs at stumps in reply to India's first innings score of 316.
The start itself was disastrous for the Kiwis, who lost two wickets within three overs, as Bhuvneshwar and Shami bowled at good line and generated fine movement.
On his home ground, Shami hit good length and brought the ball in from round the wicket to have the left-handed Tom Latham trapped leg-before wicket in the second over.
An accurate Bhuvneshwar asked questions through his subtle movement. After being hit twice to the ropes, Bhuvneshwar fought back by scalping Martin Guptill in the third over. The Kiwi opener was done in by the unexpected bounce – the ball hit his right elbow and crashed on to the stumps. Bhuvneshwar struck again after lunch. Henry Nicholls played the wrong line and was played on as New Zealand reeled at 23 for three.
Nevertheless, the stand-in skipper Ross Taylor and Luke Ronchi stayed positive and played some entertaining strokes. When Virat Kohli introduced the spinners, the Kiwi pair chose Ravichandran Ashwin for special treatment while building a 62-runs partnership. Jadeja's precision proved more useful than Ashwin's variations on a pitch which was impartial towards the spinners.
Ronchi, who was let off by Gautam Gambhir at short point on 18 off Shami and survived a strong lbw appeal on 25 off Jadeja, and hammered five lovely fours and an effortless six over square-leg. He was trapped in front by Jadeja moments before rain interrupted play with 40 minutes to go for tea.
On resumption after a two-and-a-half hours break, the uncertain bounce, sometimes too high and sometimes too low for the wicketkeeper to collect, not only troubled the batsmen but also agonised the bowlers. With towers of clouds overlooking the stadium, the Indian seamers bowled exceptionally well under lights.
Bhuvneshwar made most of the conditions. Ross Taylor spent some uncomfortable moments before edging an outswinger to first slip. The wiry bowler had Santner lbw and hit Henry's offstump in successive deliveries to complete his five-for.
India achieved its primary target of surpassing 300 prior to the lunch. Wriddhiman Saha led the lower order fight as the host added 77 runs to its overnight aggregate.
Saha's gritty performance, resulting in his third half century and first at home, was an ideal example of surviving on a pitch offering dubious bounce. Saha, who was hit on his elbow by a Matt Henry delivery, showed character to hang in there. It helped him improve his footwork and play more freely.
Saha explored the gaps, predominantly on the off side, to play some excellent shots. He lifted Santner over mid on for a four and followed it up with a six over long off to reach his half century. The local hero, playing his first Test at home, put up two valuable partnerships worth 41 and 35 runs (off just 31 balls) with Jadeja and Shami for the eighth and 10th wickets respectively.
Neil Wagner set up Jadeja to have him caught at deep fine-leg in the 11th over of the morning. Santner dismissed Bhuvneshwar and Trent Boult had the hard-hitting Mohammed Shami stunningly caught by Henry at fine-leg to check India's progress half-an-hour before the lunch break.
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