At close of play on Day 3, New Zealand needed a further 400 runs to win with just five second innings wickets remaining. These are numbers that give you a measure of India dominance in the match.
India put on a solid batting effort in the second innings on a pitch that can be described as challenging but the if the main goal was to see Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli get some big runs, then one can say that the home team didn’t quite achieve it.
But as far as winning the match goes, India made solid strides in the right direction. They scored quick runs and took quick wickets to virtually snuff out any chance of NZ escaping with any points.
Day 3 was all about the Indian batters to start off. New Zealand were so behind the eight ball and that getting back into it would require a miracle of sorts. So the focus was instead all on India’s decision to bat. It was a chance for Kohli and Pujara to find some runs and confidence ahead of SA tour. An opportunity for Iyer to stake a stronger claim on the middle order slot and of course, a chance for Mayank Agarwal to get into the squad.
And for a while in the morning session, it looked like Mayank Agarwal and Cheteshwar Pujara would make mincemeat of the Kiwi bowlers. Both looked to be positive but it was Pujara who stood out.
He showed great intent against the spinners and kept using his feet to them. Southee once again was solid and Ajaz Patel did his bit too but for the first hour, it was all India.
The duo brought up the century stand and looked good for plenty more but an injury to Agarwal seemed to put a spanner in the works. He tried to get a few quick runs but the blow to his right forearm proved to be his undoing.
He was dismissed after reaching his fifty while trying to run down the track to Ajaz Patel. The ball gripped a little and the opener was caught in the deep.
A little later, Pujara edged it to first slip. It was a good innings to that point but he would have been disappointed that he couldn’t make it a big one. He had lost momentum after a brisk start.
Gill had walked in at the fall of Agarwal’s wicket and he was joined by Kohli in the middle after that. India went into lunch at Ind 142/2.
In the session: 25 overs, 73 runs, 2 wickets.
All eyes were on Kohli as India’s batters took the field after the lunch break. His extended run of low scores has prompted him to talk about workload management and he has looked to mentally get back in a good space but nothing will work better than some runs in the middle.
The pitch wasn’t the easiest to bat on but the NZ skipper Tom Latham did the two batters a favour by starting the session with Somerville and Ravindra. The two had been the least impressive of the NZ bowlers in the match and having them bowl in tandem gave the batters some breathing room.
It allowed both Gill and Kohli to settle back in and then play a few shots. But neither batter was very convincing. Gill was risking it a bit too much and Kohli just hadn’t found his rhythm.
The fluency that one usually associates with Kohli was not on display. Yes, the pitch had something for the bowlers but with no pressure on the batters, one might have expected him to take on the bowlers a bit more.
Ravindra, who had usually only bowled ahead of the scheduled breaks, made the most of his long spell to eventually claim the wickets of Gill (47) and Kohli (36). Both soft dismissals.
The other Indian batters were in the mood to hit the big shots. Iyer had two sixes in his 14, Axar Patel hit 4 sixes in his 41 and Jayant Yadav had one in his cameo too. Kohli’s declaration with India’s total on 276/7 gave New Zealand a victory target of 540 runs.
A day after he took 10 wickets in an innings, Ajaz Patel broke another long-standing record against India, which was previously held by Ian Botham (also at the Wankhede Stadium). He finished with match figures of 14/227 – the most wickets taken against India in a Test match.
At tea, the visitors were 13/1. Ashwin was back among the wickets and it really didn’t look like the NZ innings would last very long.
In the session: 28 overs, 134 runs, 6 wickets
After play resumed, NZ quickly collapsed to 55/3 and with India’s spinners settling in from both ends, life wasn’t easy.
But this is where Daryl Mitchell stood up and played a classy innings. He came out looking to be aggressive even against the spinners but he was decisive in his footwork. He only went for the big shots when the bowlers were giving the ball some air, unlike Ross Taylor who came out ready to attack everything and went back in no time.
Mitchell showed that it was possible not just to survive but also to put pressure back on the Indian bowlers. As he said after the game, he took a leaf out of the notebook of the Indian batters who had done exactly the same to the Kiwi bowlers.
The 73-run stand between Mitchell and Henry Nicholls came off 111 balls and allowed NZ to fight as we have come to expect from them.
When Mitchell was dismissed after making 60 off 92 balls, there was a thought that the floodgates might open again but Ravindra kept his cool and stood firm with Nicholls till the end of the day. New Zealand need exactly 400 runs to win the match. India need a more likely five wickets.
In the session: 41 overs, 127 runs, 4 wickets