In reply to New Zealand`s 192, India put up 438 having lost all their wickets as Rahane’s classy ton (118 from only 158 deliveries) steered them to a comfortable first innings lead at the end of the second day on a Basin Reserve pitch that is considerably easing out with time and turning into a batting friendly track.
The Kiwis’ second innings started off on a wrong note as opener Peter Fulton was dismissed by India’s old gun Zaheer Khan as New Zealand ended the day on 24 for one which means they are still trailing by 222 runs with nine wickets in hand. Hamish Rutherford and in-form Kane Williamson were at the crease on 18 and 4 respectively at the draw of stumps.
Rahane put on a 120-run seventh wicket stand with skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (68 off 86 balls) as India aggressively batted to press the advantage in their favour in the post-tea session.
Earlier, opener Shikhar Dhawan (98) unluckily missed out on a century by just two runs even after laying the foundation of India`s best batting show of the Test series. He faced 127 balls to struck 14 fours and a six. For New Zealand, Tim Southee (3/93), Trent Boult (3/99), Neil Wagner (3/106) and James Neesham (1/62) shared the picks among them. With three full days left, India would look to win the game and level the two-match series as they are already 0-1 down in the series.
Starting off at 301/6 post-tea with Rahane, the Indian captain brought up his 29th Test fifty, in the 86th over. Their 100-run partnership came up just two overs later. Just when the pitch was looking to be too easy for the batsmen, Dhoni was caught by keeper BJ Watling off Boult in the 93rd over.
Ravindra Jadeja (26 off 16 balls) came to the crease and added 37 runs with Rahane who was now beginning to run out of partners. But soon after Rahane was opening his aggressive hand, curtains were drawn on his fantastic knock after an equally stupendous one-handed catch in the deep by Boult. An over later, Zaheer edged behind to leave India bowled out.
Earlier, along with Virat Kohli, Rahane batted to get a substantial lead for the team. They picked their areas to score and batted with confidence to punish the balls that deserved to be. But then, Kohli drived and was caught at short cover by Neil Wagner, much to the dismay of the batsman. He scored 38 runs off 93 balls.
But as Dhoni entered the crease , it was an important passage of play for India thereafter. This is because of the reason that any more wickets would have exposed the tail to the new ball. He played his natural attacking game first up and then built up a partnership with Rahane by settling down.
In the morning, three valiant fours were struck by Ishane scoring 26 runs (off 50 balls) and their partnership put on 52 runs with Dhawan for the third wicket before he was was caught handsomely by keeper BJ Watling in the 37th over.. Kohli joined him in the middle after Ishant`s dismissal and this small passage of play saw some funny cricket, a variety of mistakes were made, ranging from chasing wide deliveries to a couple of mix-ups in between the wickets.
All these resulted in a heartbreak for Dhawan as he fell two runs short of a second consecutive Test hundred. Three runs later, it became a wobbly situation for India as Rohit Sharma (0) was once again dismissed off a loose shot.
This double blow meant New Zealand could have still got a chance to come back into the game, but Kohli and Rahane well guarded the fort to safely guide India into the safe zone. Now, it is to be seen whether India can pull off a crushing win against New Zealand in the coming days.