Plan A for New Zealand, as they came out to bat on day three of the third Test match against India, would have been to survive the opening session. That plan went reasonably well as Martin Guptill and Tom Latham batted impressively to leave New Zealand in a decent position at Lunch, before it went awry in the final two sessions as R Ashwin did what he has done all series – pick up wickets in bucketloads.
After a 118-run opening wicket partnership, New Zealand's reply to India's massive score took a wrong turn, right into wicket lane. After going into Lunch on 125/1, with Guptill and Kane Williamson at the crease, New Zealand would have hoped for a big partnership from the two experienced batsmen, but Ashwin would have the Kiwi skipper's number again.
Another ball that spun and bounced led to Williamson's (8, 25b, 1x4) dismissal, with the right-hander finding an inside edge onto his stumps.
Ashwin was only warming up now, with Ross Taylor (0, 4b), so disappointing in this series, edging one through to Ajinkya Rahane at first slip soon after, before the off-spinner just got a slight deflection onto the stumps off a straight drive from Luke Ronchi which caught the backing-up Guptill (72, 144b, 10x4, 2x6) out of his crease. It was cruel for the Black Caps opener, who had finally found some form, but that is just the way the cookie has crumbled for him in Test match cricket.
Ronchi (0, 6b) would follow suit soon, as another outside edge found its way to Rahane off Wriddhiman Saha's thigh.
New Zealand were 148/5 at that moment and when it looked like they might cave in for under 200, Jimmy Neesham and BJ Watling put on a strong 53-run partnership.
Another wicket, however, was inevitable, and it came when Ravindra Jadeja, this time, found Watling's (23, 48b, 4x4) outside edge, which went through to the waiting Rahane. New Zealand went into Tea on 216 for six in 68 overs.
Neesham and Mitchell Santner, so impressive with bat and ball in this series, put on another half-century partnership, but it was always a question of when India would bat again today rather than if. After 52 runs together in 16 overs, Santner's resistance would end when the left-hander, going for a big booming drive off Jadeja, would only manage an inside edge, with the ball flying all the way to Virat Kohli, who took a nice catch at leg-slip.
Neesham's outstanding knock also came to an end not long after that when Ashwin got an lbw appeal to go his way and with it also complete his 20th five-for in Tests. Ashwin would again come into play soon, with the off-spinner fortuitously running Jeetan Patel out after the ball bounced off his hands, off a catch attempt which would have given him his sixth wicket, and onto the stumps.
The innings ended on 299 in 90.2 overs when Trent Boult holed out to Cheteshwar Pujara, giving Ashwin his sixth wicket of the innings and India a lead of 258 runs. India predictably came out to bat in the six overs that were remaining, deciding not to enforce the follow-on, and while Gautam Gambhir was allowed to bat, despite staying off the field for a prolonged time due to a shoulder injury, sustained while stopping the ball in the field, he was soon was forced off. While going back for a two, Gambhir decided to dive to get to the crease in time and duly injured his right shoulder again, with Cheteshwar Pujara coming in to bat.
Pujara and Murali Vijay, however, made sure India would end the day without losing a wicket on 18/0 in six overs, even if there was the unnecessary embarrassment of being warned, yet again, for blatantly running on the pitch – Vijay the culprit this time, after Jadeja was penalised runs and fined for doing the same on Sunday.
While Rahane ended up taking three catches in the second session, he actually did not have a great start to day three, dropping Guptill when he was on just 21. Latham was also a little lucky to survive on a couple of occasions, but it was luck that the New Zealand openers deserved. They batted quite well – nullifying the threat of the fast bowlers and playing the spinners really well. What Guptill and Latham did brilliantly was they put the bad balls away – and there were quite a few of those early on – while also playing the percentages well, much like Virat Kohli did in his double century knock.
Even with those impressive batting performances, Guptill should have been contemplating another failed innings back in the dressing room after Mohammed Shami induced an outside edge off a full delivery that just shaped away. The ball went quickly to Rahane at chest height and came back out equally quickly as well.
Latham survived a couple of chances as well, with one dropping just short of Jadeja, also off Shami, while Jadeja was the bowler when a sweep shot came off the left-hander's boot and was taken at first slip by Rahane. However, umpire Bruce Oxenford did not see the inside edge and gave it not out.
That mistake did not prove to be too expensive, however, as Ashwin, in the next over, induced a leading edge from Latham (53, 104b, 7x4) with the bowler taking a simple return catch. It was all downhill for New Zealand from there.
Scores: First innings: India: 557 for five declared in 169 overs.
New Zealand second innings: 299 all out in 90.2 overs.
First innings lead: 258 for India.
Second innings: India: 18/0 in six overs.
Overall lead: 276 for India.
Bowling: India: Mohammed Shami 13-1-40-0; Umesh Yadav 15-1-55-0; R Ashwin 27.2-5-81-6; Ravindra Jadeja 28-5-80-2; Murali Vijay 7-0-27-0.
New Zealand: Trent Boult 3-0-9-0; Jeetan Patel 2-0-8-0; Mitchell Santner 1-0-1-0.
Fall of wickets: New Zealand: 118/1, Tom Latham (34.2 overs); 134/2, Kane Williamson (43 overs); 140/3, Ross Taylor (44.5 overs); 148/4, Martin Guptill (47 overs); 148/5, Luke Ronchi (48.1 overs); 201/6, BJ Watling (63 overs); 257/7, Mitchell Santner (79 overs); 276/8, Jimmy Neesham (86.2 overs); 294/9, Jeetan Patel (88.2 overs); 299/10, Trent Boult (90.2 overs).