An expected tale once again unfolded in Hyderabad when the Indian spinners stamped their supremacy after their batsmen posted a good score on a worn-out Uppal wicket on the second day of the first Test against New Zealand on Friday.
After an impressive 159 by Cheteshwar Pujara and solid half-centuries by MS Dhoni (73) and Virat Kohli (58) that took India's first innings total to 438, it was the duo of Pragyan Ojha and R Ashwin who reveled in the spin-friendly conditions, picking up two and three wickets respectively.
New Zealand ended the day at 106 for 5, still 332 runs shy of the India’s total, with James Franklin (31) and Kruger van Wyk (0) at the wicket. The visitors, who began their innings after tea, lost wickets in a heap as none of their batsmen could gauge the nature of the pitch to match the craft of the Indian spinners.
Brendon McCullum (22) paid the price of being ultra-aggressive, throwing his wicket away in the very first over bowled by the Indian spinners. Ojha drew McCullum forward, making him play a rash stroke on the up and was taken neatly by Virat Kohli in the covers. It was the first of the three catches that Kohli took.
Before Martin Guptill (2) could understand how much the wicket is turning, he was caught by Kohli at backward short leg while trying to defend a tossed-up delivery on the middle and leg from Ashwin. Ross Taylor (2) was also caught at the same place but to a more difficult attempt by Kohli, who dived full length after Taylor tried to flick it. It was referred to the TV umpire who gave him out after watching the replays from every possible angle. Daniel Flynn played across the line and was trapped lbw by a flatter delivery by Ashwin.
Kane Williamson (32) and Franklin, although scoring runs at a snail’s pace, prevented India taking any more wicket until Ojha struck again with Williamson edging a fuller one to Virender Sehwag at first slip.
Earlier, after setting up a launch pad for a big score without losing any wickets in the morning session, the Indian batsmen faltered in their approach in the afternoon and lost five wickets in the second session to get all out for 438.
Jeetan Patel got rewards for his persistence as he tempted the settled Indian batsmen, Pujara (159) and Dhoni (73), to play false strokes, thus picking up crucial wickets.
Pujara's impressive knock ended when his miscued hoick off Jeetan Patel found Franklin who back-pedalled from mid-on to take a good catch. Dhoni too didn't last long as his attempt to clear mid-off failed as Doug Bracewell leaped up to snap a fine catch.
Zaheer Khan got out to a snorter from Trent Boult whose length delivery on the off stump got a top edge from Zaheer's bat before being taken neatly by the diving van Wyk behind the wickets.
Ashwin, meanwhile, looked extremely confident, showing the technique and temperament of a top-order batsman. He was nicely behind the line against the pacers and hit the offspinner Patel for runs through the covers. But his vigil ended when he came down the track but missed a full-length delivery from Patel and was stumped for 37.
Umesh Yadav was the last man to go when he got run out to an unnecessary single attempted by Ojha.