India on top in tight first Test battle against the Black Caps


India finished day three of the first Test against New Zealand in a commanding position having secured a first innings lead.

The hosts took control after Axar Patel’s five-for wrapped up New Zealand’s first innings at 296 Saturday in reply to the hosts’ 345.

At stumps, India were 14-1, leading by 63 runs in their second innings with opener Shubman Gill back in the hut, bowled by Kyle Jamieson for one before bad light stopped play after five overs.

Mayank Agarwal, on four, and Cheteshwar Pujara, on nine, will resume the innings Sunday as the hosts look to put the first of two Tests out of reach on an increasingly tricky wicket.

Earlier, Patel and the other Indian spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja had to claw India back into the game after a strong New Zealand start.

The Black Caps were 249-6 at tea, but the three spinners finished the Kiwi innings off within 47 runs after the break.

Patel bowled Tim Southee for five to complete his five-for.

India seize control

Patel said he had been using the crease well on the pitch which is “slowing up even further”.

“Today (it) was even slower than the first two days, though it was turning more. It is difficult, but you can survive here with caution,” he said after play.

Ashwin took the last two wickets of the innings to finish his 42.3-over spell giving away 82 runs for three scalps.

Jamieson was caught off Ashwin for 23 and William Somerville was clean bowled by the offspinner to end the Black Caps’ innings.

Ashwin and Patel denied centuries to the Kiwi openers — Tom Latham and Will Young — who closed the day on Friday at 129 for zero.

Latham was stumped by substitute wicketkeeper K.S. Bharat off Patel’s bowling for a grinding 95 off 282 balls.

Young, who shared a 151-run opening stand with Latham, fell 11 short of his maiden international century after edging Ashwin to Bharat.

The 29-year-old told journalists after play that batsmen have to use the conditions to “take calculated risks to keep the scoreboard ticking over”.

“I think each one has their own method of how they’re going to combat the conditions and also the Indian bowlers who are highly skilled in these conditions,” Young said.

New Zealand captain Kane Williamson fell leg-before to pacer Umesh Yadav for 18 just before lunch, leaving the visitors on 197-2.

India’s spinners, especially Patel and Ashwin, then looked more potent on the third-day wicket with the second new ball, bowling tight lines and offering little to the batters.

Ross Taylor survived a stumping by K.S. Bharat off Axar before edging the same bowler to the substitute wicketkeeper a few overs later, departing for 11.

Henry Nicholls was given leg-before to Patel for two and Latham fell for 95. Jadeja bowled debutant Rachin Ravindra for 13.

Jadeja bowled 33 overs for 57 runs and Patel, India’s most effective spinner, bowled 34 overs for 62 runs and five wickets.

Yadav, who took India’s second new ball with Patel, bowled 18 overs for 50 runs and Williamson’s wicket.