Spinner Mitchell Santner and paceman Trent Boult combined to lead New Zealand’s fightback and restrict India to 291 for nine on the opening day of the first test on Thursday.
At 154 for one, India looked set for a big first innings total but after Santner claimed three top and middle order wickets, Boult (3-57) wreaked havoc with the second new ball to peg back the hosts at Kanpur’s Green Park Stadium.
Rather unsurprisingly, New Zealand’s three spinners bowled bulk of the overs to share five wickets among themselves on a typical sub-continental track which had little for the pacemen.
Ravindra Jadeja (16) and Umesh Yadav (eight) will return on Friday looking to take India, who went into the match with four bowlers to accommodate an extra batsman, at least past the 300-run mark.
Earlier, Lokesh Rahul and Murali Vijay gave the hosts a decent start after skipper Virat Kohli had opted to bat in India’s 500th test.
Rahul’s last four innings across formats had yielded two centuries and a fifty and the right-hander, chosen ahead of Shikhar Dhawan, dominated his 42-run stand with fellow opener Vijay.
The 24-year-old hit four boundaries, and a six off Mitchell Santner, before getting a faint edge to wicketkeeper BJ Watling in the left-arm spinner’s second over.
Cheteshwar Pujara (62) then joined forces with Vijay (65) to prop up the innings, the duo adding 112 runs for the second wicket and rarely looking in discomfort.
They brought up their individual fifties in successive overs before Santner had Pujara popping a simple return catch.
After 11 overs of toiling on an unresponsive pitch, Neil Wagner struck a body blow when he banged it short and induced Kohli (nine) into attempting a pull shot early in his innings, only for the right-hander to top edge a catch to Ish Sodhi.
India-born Sodhi dismissed Vijay just before tea with Watling holding on to another faint edge as New Zealand claimed three important wickets for 80 runs in the second session to halt India’s progress.
Batting at six, Rohit Sharma made a fluent 35 but could not fully convince he can replicate his limited-overs success in the longest format.
Ravichandran Ashwin made 40 but his team will expect him to make a greater impact with his off-spin bowling in conditions that should suit him.