Axar Patel's brilliant fifer (5/62) led India's fightback on Day 3 of the first Test match at Kanpur as New Zealand got bowled out for 296 runs in the first innings, handing the hosts a 49-run lead. At Stumps, India were 14/1 with a 63-run lead, having lost Shubman Gill (1) early to Kyle Jamiseon.
New Zealand started the day on a bright note as the overnight batsmen - Tom Latham and Will Young - continued to look in good touch. However, Young fell 11 runs short to what could have been his maiden hundred when he nicked one to substitute India keeper KS Bharat off R Ashiwn.
Bharat, who was replacing Wriddhiman Saha for being away with a stiff neck, was in splendid form with the gloves. He not only took good catches but also effected a smart stumping off Patel's bowling to dismiss the dangerous Latham five runs shy of a century. It was a terrific day for the Andhra cricketer on the field even though he hasn't made his international debut yet!
Once Young and Latham got out, there was barely any resistance from the Kiwi batters. Skipper Kane Williamson (18), Ross Taylor (11), Tom Blundell (13) and Rachin Ravindra (13) - all of them got starts but failed to convert them into big scores. Wickets kept falling at regular intervals as Patel and Ashwin (3/82) ran riot through the middle order and tail. Only Kyle Jamieson with a gritty 23 off 75 balls showed some character to keep the Indian bowlers at bay.
Patel was outstanding after a very difficult time yesterday (Friday). This was his fifth five-wicket haul in seven Test innings, which just went on to show his dominance in Indian conditions. The Gujarat lad used the crease well and bowled round the wicket mostly to keep the flow of runs in check. The resultant pressure eventually fetched him wickets.
"I have been using the crease well. I have a round-arm action, and that was working well on this pitch. I would bowl from wide of the crease and something would happen. I think that troubled them. The pitch is slowing up even further. Today was even slower than the first two days, though it was turning more. It is difficult, but you can survive here with caution," Patel said after the day's play.
With the wicket going slower and slower every day, Cheteshwar Pujara (9*) and Mayank Agarwal (4*) will have to be extremely cautious in the first hour when the play resumes tomorrow. India will certainly be looking at a 250-300-run lead to sustain the pressure on the New Zealand side.