India in commanding position after Day Four

New Zealand, at 93/4 after day four, needs another 341 (read: miracle) to win the Test. No visiting team has chased more than 276 to win a Test in India.

AShwin ravichandran celebrates taking his 200th Test wicket

Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja grated the opposition bowling in the second session to set New Zealand a target that hasn’t been surmounted in Tests. Ravichandran Ashwin then struck thrice after tea to ensure New Zealand had a slippery start to its climb.

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The opposition, at 93/4 after day four, needs another 341 (read: miracle) to win the Test. No visiting team has chased more than 276 to win a Test in India.

Ashwin, in his second over, gave the visiting team an ominous welcome to the chase, dismissing its openers. He then ended a nervous 40-run stand between Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson, dismissing the latter lbw for his 200th Test wicket. Only Australian leg-spinner Clarrie Grimmet, on his 36th match in 1936, reached the milestone sooner than Ashwin.

Taylor, who survived 35 balls with a seemingly uncertain mind, was run out in a manner that made batting coach Craig McMillan frown in the dressing room. Luke Ronchi had driven Ashwin to Umesh Yadav at long on and called for two. During the second run, Yadav’s throw hit the non-striker’s stumps as Taylor came running with his bat well inside but above the crease.

Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jageda widen India's lead

Earlier, India had declared its second innings at 377/5, thanks to an unbeaten partnership between Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadega. Sharma, for once, refrained from Test cricket’s sin of hitting the ball in the air. Despite being frequently lured by the Kiwi spinners’ floating deliveries, Sharma mostly blocked the ball or drove it along the ground. The restraint helped him reach a Test fifty after seven innings.

Jadeja, meanwhile, came down the track to slam the ball on occasions, without worrying about the prodigious turn off the pitch. Why would he? He knew what he did to New Zealand batsmen in the first innings. He knew what he can do to them in the second. He probably hid a wicked grin. For 58 balls, he blocked and chopped and slogged and heaved to a half-century that was celebrated with a sword-dance. Virat Kohli, visibly amused in the dressing room, declared the innings.

Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara, who dominated the spinners yesterday evening, were more subdued in the morning. Rather they were forced to by Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi. The bowlers pitched consistently on the lines that troubled Vijay and Pujara. There were more balls than yesterday that beat the bat and struck the pad.

As the Indian spinners frequently did yesterday, Santner, in the 57th over, forced Vijay forward with a looping delivery that pitched outside off. The ball, with bounce and drift, went past the outside edge of Vijay’s bat. The next one that pitched on the line of the off-stump and straightened, deceived Vijay, who played for the turn.

The ball of the session, however, was delivered by Sodhi. Coming over the wicket to the right-handed Pujara, he pitched the ball outside the leg-stump. Pujara leaned for a forward defence. But the late drift tricked him as the ball brushed his outside edge and landed at Ross Taylor at first slip.

Kohli was hurried while scoring. Of his three boundaries, two came from the outside edge. The Indian skipper perished at 18, attempting to sweep Mark Craig, who pitched on the sixth stump line. The ball loomed off his top-edge to Sodhi at mid-wicket.