India conjured up hopes of a record runchase before a lower middle-order collapse saw the visitors slump to a 40-run defeat against New Zealand in the thrilling first cricket test and hand over a 1-0 lead to the hosts in the two-match series in Auckland on Sunday. (Scorecard | Highlights | Pics)
Chasing 407 to win, India resumed their second innings at 87 for one and were on course with Shikhar Dhawan (115) and Virat Kohli (67) sharing 126 runs for the third wicket. However, pacer Neil Wagner took four crucial wickets in the post-lunch session to derail India's chase at Eden Park. (Shikhar Dhawan's valiant effort goes in vain)
After a series of low scores, Dhawan returned to form as he cracked a patient century and anchored the Indian innings along with Kohli, who too looked in good touch.
But Wagner's double blow left India tottering at 270-5 at tea and it was left to skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja, who launched a counterattack to leave the Kiwis dazed for a brief period. Yet, once they departed India failed to overhaul the target.
Wagner took the wickets of Dhawan, Kohli, Zaheer Khan(17) and Dhoni (39) to return with a eight-wicket haul from the match, while Tim Southee added three wickets to his three-wicket haul of the first innings.
Earlier, India started the day needing 320 runs to win and Dhawan and Pujara looked to provide them a solid start. In the very first over of the day, Dhawan reached his half-century, getting the milestone ticked off early, facing 75 balls and hitting five fours.
Dhawan had a shaky start as he survived a couple of LBW shouts. The Kiwis were bowling a nagging line and length,especially Tim Southee and he was soon rewarded for it. In the fifth over of the morning, he bowled a near-perfect delivery to Pujara who could do nothing but play at it and edged it the keeper.
Pujara was out for 23 runs (71 balls, 1 fours, 1 six), leaving a mountain to be climbed for the rest of the batsmen.
Kohli then came out to bat and patiently saw off Southee's super spell of 6-3-4-1.
At the other end, Dhawan too continued to bat cautiously as the 100-run mark came for the chase in the 32nd over. They tempered their batting according to the situation, mixing aggression with defence.
Dhawan and Kohli set the foundation for the chase but once they were gone, none of the Indian batsman could cross the 40-run mark as it turned out to be a disappointing end to the Test for the visitors who are without a single win on the tour so far.
After reducing India to 270-5 at tea, New Zealand made a cracking start to the post-tea session with Rohit Sharma (19) gone first ball, falling to a beautiful out-swinger from Southee.
It was then left to skipper Dhoni and Jadeja to salvage something out of the situation as 137 runs were still remaining for victory.
Faced with the new ball, the duo went on a counter-attack. After Rohit's dismissal, the first five overs cost 45 runs as the two batsmen smacked quite a few boundaries.
In all, they added 54 runs in just 5.4 overs, with Jadeja playing the more active partner. The allrounder hit 26 runs, off only 21 balls, with four fours and one six as the 50-run partnership came in only 33 balls.
The target too came down to 83 runs when he was dismissed, caught at mid-on off Boult. Then, Zaheer Khan soaked up a lot of pressure for 32 balls and scored 17 runs (one four, one six) as Dhoni farmed the strike. Together they added 25 crucial runs, as the chase got more intense.
It was left to Wagner to get another breakthrough as he had Zaheer caught at slip. At eight down, it was only up to Dhoni to get his side across the finish line and he perished in this attempt, going after a short and wide one, again from Wagner, and played it onto his stumps.
Dhoni was out for 39 runs, having faced 41 balls, and hit six fours. Indeed it was the end for India, as Boult wrapped up the Indian innings with Ishant Sharma's (4) wicket. Mohammad Shami (0*) was the unbeaten batsman.
India will play New Zealand in the second Test starting in Wellington on February 14.
Dhawan reached his second Test hundred, off 169 balls, with eleven fours and one six. It was the first hundred by an Indian opener in the fourth innings of an overseas Test since Sunil Gavaskar's 221 runs versus England at the Oval in 1979.
India would have liked his partner to get a hundred as well but Kohli was out against the run of play in the 61st over.
He tried to pull a short and very wide delivery from Wagner, and only ended up getting a fine under-edge, collected low by keeper BJ Watling.
The run scoring slowed down as new batsman Rohit Sharma took his time and Dhawan too got cautious. 26 runs later then, it became a double blow from Wagner as he came around the wicket to the opener in the 75th over, and unleashed a short ball directed across his body.
Dhawan couldn't get out of its way and gloved it to the keeper, knocking India's momentum.
It got worse as New Zealand struck with the second new ball taken immediately as it became due. Boult got the ball to swing back but it had a thick inside edge which umpire Steve Davis did not notice and gave Ajinkya Rahane (18) out LBW, leaving India in trouble again.
In the morning session, Dhawan and Kohli had added 84 runs to take lunch at 180/2. The number four batsman, especially, played with great care and got his eye in. He opened up only when leg-spinner Ish Sodhi came on to bowl, taking 18 runs off his first two overs. They brought up their 50-run partnership off 111 balls, as the New Zealand bowlers toiled hard under the sun, but without success. Kohli brought up his ninth Test fifty just before lunch, off 80 balls, hitting ten fours.