Pujara, Rahane show some fight but NZ on top after Day 1

The 141-run fourth wicket partnership between Pujara (87) and Rahane (77) was the crux of India's middle order resilience, which enabled the host to recover from 46 for three and close the day at 239 for seven in 86 overs after electing to bat. Wriddhiman Saha (14) and Ravindra Jadeja (0) held fort when bad light stopped play.

ChetesHwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane run during first day of 2nd Test Match against New Zealand at Eden Garden in Kolkata on Friday.   -  PTI

Shikhar Dhawan is bowled by Matt Henry.   -  Reuters

Perseverance and application of a batsman never go unrewarded at the Eden Gardens. Even on the newly-laid track offering variable bounce, the iconic stadium was not discourteous towards the dependable duo of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane, who scripted India's revival on the opening day of the second Test against New Zealand here on Friday.

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The 141-run fourth wicket partnership between Pujara (87) and Rahane (77) was the crux of India's middle order resilience, which enabled the host to recover from 46 for three and close the day at 239 for seven in 86 overs after electing to bat. Wriddhiman Saha (14) and Ravindra Jadeja (0) held fort when bad light stopped play.

Sharing a similar journey in Test cricket, Pujara and Rahane scored their 10th and ninth half-centuries respectively and joined hands for more than three hours to bail India out of deep trouble.

In 17 years, no team had lost three wickets in the morning session of a Test at the Eden. The relaid pitch had little contribution in the early collapse of the Indian innings. The disastrous start was because of some exhibition seam bowling by the New Zealanders, who were handled well by stand-in skipper Ross Taylor in the absence of an unwell Kane Williamson. Poor shot selection was the other reason.

Trent Boult generated massive movement and mixed it up with deliveries coming back into the batsmen. However, it was the disciplined Matt Henry who attacked the off stump and tasted success.

Shikhar Dhawan, chosen ahead of Gautam Gambhir to replace K.L Rahul, tentatively tried to cut Henry and was played on in the second over.

Murali Vijay and Pujara inspired some confidence even as the Kiwi bowlers extracted encouraging bounce and swing. Before India could do any damage with a second wicket stand, Henry produced a beauty of a delivery to get rid of Vijay in a classical fashion. A good length delivery moved a trifle to kiss Vijay's outside edge and nest in wicketkeeper B.J. Watling's gloves.

Captain Virat Kohli fell cheaply in his bid to drive an away-going ball from Boult. Tom Latham dived to his right to take a spectacular catch.

Pujara, who survived an appeal for lbw off Boult, played with composure, defended solidly with a straight bat and rarely went for a false shot. He gave each ball got the treatment it deserved. After getting used to the slow pace and varying bounce of the pitch, he picked up 17 handsome boundaries – through confident drives on either side, copybook cuts and step-out shots against the spinners.

Rahane complemented Pujara well after putting to rest his initial doubts about the bounce. The two provided more assurance as they batted through the second session after India managed 57 for three in the first period.

Rahane maintained a decent balance between valuing his wicket and gathering runs, resulting in the fractional improvement in the scoring rate. On 33, Rahane got a reprieve when Doug Bracewell spilled a difficult chance off Jeetan Patel's first over.

The Mumbai batsman, who fell on the ground while avoiding one the bouncers from Wagner, hit 10 good looking fours, most of them off Patel, on square of the wicket on each side and guided one to the third man fence.

The hard working Kiwi bowlers bounced back in the final session with left-arm seamer Neil Wagner providing the breakthrough. Pujara, who scored his third consecutive half-century and survived another close lbw shout off Mitchell Santner on 58, perished to an uppish shot. He was snared by Martin Guptill at short cover.

Rohit Sharma again fell early as Patel, featuring in a Test after three years, offered subtle variations switching between spinning and straightish deliveries, claimed his first wicket. He trapped Rahane in front to rejoice his successful comeback.

Henry picked up his third wicket by having the fast-scoring R. Ashwin lbw and spread cheers in the New Zealand camp.