Bangalore: On a day that saw bowlers dominate the first half and batsmen the second, India were well served by their younger batsmen for the second time in two Tests, as they ended the second day of the second Test at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore on 283 for five, still 82 runs behind New Zealand's first innings 365.
Virat Kohli was the batting star for India, continuing a rich vein of form that has seen him pick off runs off a variety of attacks on different surfaces in every format of the game. Kohli ended the day at 93 not out, in an innings that saw him play straight drives that Sachin Tendulkar would have been proud of and display wristy elegance that would have impressed VVS Laxman, as he bailed India out of trouble in the fashion of Rahul Dravid.
Kohli combined with Suresh Raina in a counter-attacking stand of 99 runs to rescue India from 80 for four, in what turned out to be the most decisive passage of play on the day. It was the second time in the day that a partnership ended at 99 runs, with the overnight association of Doug Bracewell and Kruger van Wyk being the first.
Earlier, after conceding 328 runs on the opening day, the Indian bowlers struck back to take the four remaining New Zealand wickets in just 8.4 overs. Zaheer Khan struck first, when van Wyk (71) edged a ball in the channel to Raina at second slip and Raina took his second sharp catch of the match, diving to his right.
The next wicket came via a large dose of luck. Tim Southee hit the ball firmly back to Zaheer, and Zaheer's half-hearted attempt at fielding the ball only ended in him palming it on to the stumps at the non-striker's end with Doug Bracewell out of his ground. It was a cruel end to a very good innings of 43 from Bracewell, who had supported van Wyk well, batting positively in the morning, hitting three boundaries before he was dismissed.
Jeetan Patel fell to Umesh Yadav, and Pragyan Ojha then got his third five-wicket haul, spinning one past Trent Boult's bat to trap him in front and wrap up the innings. Ojha ended with figures of 5 for 99.
India's high at containing New Zealand's score didn't last very long. Boult and Southee took the new ball for New Zealand and they hit perfect lengths immediately to cause Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag, India's openers, plenty of discomfort.
Southee repeatedly beat Sehwag's bat, and was distinctly unlucky that an extremely close leg-before shout was not given. Then in the third over, Boult induced an edge from Gambhir only to see Brendon McCullum put the chance down in the slips. Gambhir's luck ran out when he shouldered arms to Southee, who got the ball to nip back a touch and hit the top of the stumps. It was a poor leave from Gambhir to a ball so close to the stumps, and he paid the price. That stretched the number of innings that Gambhir has gone without a hundred to 39 – an uncomfortably high number.
Southee got a second wicket when he drew Cheteshwar Pujara into playing an ill-advised hook that landed safely in the hands of Boult.
Tendulkar then joined Sehwag to rebuild the innings from 27 for two. Tendulkar was watchful, while Sehwag alternated between living dangerously and playing the kind of shots only he can. However, given the number of times the ball beat the bat and flew off the edge, even his boundaries didn't make New Zealand feel too defensive.
Tendulkar and Sehwag took India through to lunch without any further loss, but neither lasted long after that. Sehwag fell to the fourth ball after lunch, playing a shot in the air off Bracewell only to be caught by an airborne Daniel Flynn at square leg. In his next over, Bracewell truly set the cat among the pigeons, when Tendulkar's attempted whip connected with air, while the ball connected with the stumps. Off the previous ball, Tendulkar had hit one of his trademark straight drives, but he fell just when he looked to be getting into his groove.
Raina then walked in, facing the pressure not just of a scoreboard that read 80 for four, but also of possibly playing for his spot in India's Test squad for the rest of the home season. He responded by taking a leaf straight out of the Ross Taylor's book of being "brave and courageous", with shots timed to perfection. Raina hit six boundaries in the first 20 balls he faced, and though his pace slowed after that, the momentum had been wrested from New Zealand.
He found excellent support in Kohli, who continued to play with maturity. New Zealand's bowling, which had been of sustained quality till then, began to fray a little, with Patel treated with particular disdain.
Raina reached his half-century before tea, but the trend of wickets early in a session continued, when he was caught down the leg-side off Southee shortly after the final session began. That was the only success New Zealand had in the session though, with Kohli fluidly elegant at one end and MS Dhoni going on the attack from the start.
Both men downed shutters in the last half hour of play, becoming more watchful as stumps approached. They brought up a century partnership in the last over of the day, but more importantly, remained at the crease to resume the battle on Day 3. A first century at home beckons for Kohli, while Dhoni will know how important a 2-0 margin is after the reverses his team suffered last year. The start of the third day should have a fascinating battle in store.