Shreyas Iyer (65) and Wriddhiman Saha (61*) composed crucial fifties to put India in pole position at stumps on Day 4 of the opening Test versus New Zealand. After India set a substantial target of 284, the visitors lost the wicket of Will Young to end the day at 4 for 1.
When Ravi Jadeja was trapped in front by a delivery that darted back from Tim Southee, India were precariously placed at 51 for 5. At that juncture, it seemed as if the hosts would struggle to eke out a lead in excess of 200. However, Iyer in the company of R Ashwin and then Saha shut New Zealand's window of opportunity to bowl India out for a modest score. Initially, Ashwin and Iyer went about doing the repair job. Ashwin in particular played with a sense of purpose to negate the threat of Southee.
The hallmark of the partnership was Severy single time the New Zealand bowlers dished out an ordinary delivery, the pair took advantage of it. Just when the pair seemed set to take India to a position of strength, Kyle Jamieson breathed life into New Zealand's efforts by forcing Ashwin to inside edge one onto the stumps. Saha then joined hands with Iyer to share another timely association. The duo also looked to up the ante with Iyer cracking a few well-timed lofts and Saha bringing out the slog-sweep.
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In between, New Zealand also had an opportunity to break the stand but the fielder stationed at midwicket put down a tough chance to give Saha the reprieve. Eventually, Iyer gloved a short ball down the leg-side, but by then the middle order batter had helped India take the lead past the 200-run mark. This Test could turn out to be the defining moment in Iyer's career as he had also notched up a superlative hundred in the first essay.
After the Tea break, Saha found an able ally in Axar as India cemented their good position. Once again New Zealand had an opportunity to dismiss Saha but Tom Blundell grassed it. On both occasions, Will Somerville was the unlucky bowler.
At the fag end of the day's play, Axar made his intentions clear by smacking Ajaz across the line for a six. With Saha also reaching his fifty, India decided to declare at 234 for 7. Ashwin then made it a near-perfect day for the home side by winning an LBW decision against Will Young.
To the naked eye, the ball seemed to be going down leg, but Young decided to avail for the review only after the timer ticked and the review was rightly denied. Replays too suggested that it was sliding down leg. On the other hand, it has been a forgettable Test match for the on-field umpires, with a slew of decisions being overturned via the DRS.
New Zealand may look back at the day's play as an opportunity lost. In the morning session, Southee generated appreciable swing and in the company of Jamieson had ripped through the cream of the batting order. In particular, the delivery to Mayank Agarwal which swung considerably was one of the highlights of the day's play. Unfortunately for the tourists, their spinners couldn't make much of an impression and now they have to perhaps play for survival on a wearing pitch on the final day.