The India spinners finally came to the fore on Day 3, picking up nine of the ten New Zealand wickets to give the home team control of this first Test match in Kanpur. India took a 56-run lead at the end of the first innings, and while the advantage lies with Virat Kohli's men, the batsmen will need to perform really well in the second innings to ensure their bowlers have enough of a total to play with in the final innings.
An early start, after the entire third session on Day 2 was lost due to rain, was just the tonic India needed as R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja bowled with a purpose and plenty of venom. The fact that the ball was taking off and turning quite a bit helped, but, unlike yesterday, the two spinners put the ball in the right areas consistently.
As a result, Kane Williamson, untroubled in his innings on the second day, and Tom Latham, equally impressive, could not rotate the strike, kept getting stuck at one end, which in turn built up the pressure, and as a result brought on the wickets.
The first to go was Latham, who was struck in front by an Ashwin delivery that went in with the arm. Latham (58, 151b 5x4), so good in defence in this innings, just caught his bat on his right pad as he was going in to defend and by that time, he was plumb lbw.
Four ball later, Ross Taylor was walking back as Jadeja got one to drift in and straighten just enough for the umpire to give another lbw decision.
The big man was still at the crease, though, and as long as Williamson (75, 137b, 7x4) was there, New Zealand would remain in control, but that went out of the window when Ashwin bowled an absolute ripper, one that turned square to knock off the stumps.
India's tail was up now, but, instead of keeping the pressure on, Kohli, surprisingly, took Jadeja out of the attack, brought the part-timer Murali Vijay on, before Umesh Yadav was given a relatively long spell. It might have been to ensure the spinners were not overbowled, and if it was that, the decision to play just two specialist slower bowlers should be questioned.
The fact that constant pressure from both ends wasn't there, allowed Luke Ronchi, only playing his second Test match, and Mitchell Santner to settle down, and the longer they batted together, the more comfortable they looked. Ronchi, after a circumspect start, also started to play some nice shots, putting the pressure back on the India bowlers.
But India persevered, and Jadeja, on return, induced a false stroke from Ronchi (38, 83b, 6x4), who tried to play the sweep shot to a ball that was too full in length.
With Ronchi gone in the 80th over, India took the new ball at the first opportunity, and Ashwin, after Mohammed Shami's first over came to nought, expectedly, was given a crack with the shiny cherry. Jadeja came in as well as Kohli looked for a wicket or two just before Lunch.
However, Santner (26, 90b, 4x4) remained impressive and with BJ Watling also surviving, New Zealand went into the Lunch break on 238/5 in 85 overs, trailing India by 80 runs.
Santner and Watling battled on well, putting on 36 runs for the sixth wicket, helped by the fact that Yadav and Shami were given the ball at the start of the second session – it's almost as if Kohli feels obligated to use his faster bowlers, when, really the spinners are the only ones the ball should have been tossed to.
Once the spinner came on, the game changed, and in a hurry too. Ashwin broke the partnership with the first ball of his spell, inducing an outside edge off Santner (32, 107b, 5x4), before Jadeja took centre-stage with a three-wicket over. The first ball of that wonderful over was a dot, then two wickets in two balls, two more dots and another wicket to finish the over off.
Mark Craig was unlucky to get a ball that stayed extremely low, while Ish Sodhi just could not get his bat down in time, giving Jadeja a couple of lbws. Boult, who survived the hat-trick ball, then defended one onto his boot, with Rohit Sharma completing a nice catch, diving to his right at silly point.
Knowing attack was the only option, Watling (21, 54b, 4x4) tried to score off Ashwin, but, after hitting a boundary, another attempt only ended up looping back to the bowler as New Zealand were bowled out for 262 in 95.5 overs, trailing India by 56 runs after the first innings.
Bowling: India: Mohammed Shami 11-1-35-0; Umesh Yadav 15-5-33-1; Ravindra Jadeja 34-7-73-5; R Ashwin 30.5-7-93-4; Murali Vijay 4-0-10-0; Rohit Sharma 1-0-5-0.
Fall of wickets: India: 42/1, KL Rahul (11 overs); 154/2, Cheteshwar Pujara (48.4 overs); 167/3, Virat Kohli (51.3 overs); 185/4, Murali Vijay (58.1 overs); 209/5, Ajinkya Rahane (64 overs); 261/6, Rohit Sharma (83 overs); 262/7, Wriddhiman Saha (83.5 overs); 273/8, R Ashwin (85.5 overs), 277/9, Mohammed Shami (87.1 overs), 318/10, Umesh Yadav (97 overs).
New Zealand: 35/1, Martin Guptill (9.3 overs); 159/2, Tom Latham (51.5 overs); 160/3, Ross Taylor (52.3 overs); 170/4, Kane Williamson (55.4 overs); 219/5, Luke Ronchi (79.1 overs); 255/6, Mitchell Santner (91.1 overs); 258/7, Mark Craig (94.2 overs); 258/8, Ish Sodhi (94.3 overs); 258/9, Trent Boult (95 overs); 262/10, BJ Watling (95.5 overs).