Rain respite for New Zealand after follow-on

When a second-session downpour ended play on the third day of the Test in Hyderabad, India had New Zealand following on in their second innings at 41 for 1. New Zealand were all out for 159 in their first innings, losing their last five batsmen before lunch.

Only 38 overs could be bowled today, enough for India to seize control of this game. Play began late on the third day, due to the heavy rains that had beaten down on Hyderbad in the hours preceding the scheduled start time. India, though, made the most of the overs available to them, especially when they had before them the lower order of a team that had come into this series without a warm-up game.

When play was called off an hour after lunch, New Zealand had put in a seemingly more thought-out second-innings batting performance, losing just the one wicket in18 overs. This, after a morning on which their bottom half had fallen over in just 19 in their first innings.

India’s spinners picked up nine first innings wickets between them in the first gig, Ashwin finishing with 6 for 31. Both Ashwin and Ojha used the the dipping length of the floated, spinning ball, slow turn off the track and the uneven bounce on one side of the pitch to keep up their interrogation of New Zealand’s fortitude in adverse circumstances.

Following on, with Ojha opening the bowling, the New Zealand openers batted like the better of the India middle order had. With circumspection, patience and certainity. Brendon McCullum was batting on 16 off 59 balls at stumps, after unluckily losing his partner Martin Guptill, ajudged lbw off Ojha for 16.

Guptill, New Zealand’s in-form batsman on their last tour of the West Indies, had batted for almost an hour with McCullum and hit Ojha for two consecutive boundaries with the spin. He tried to nudge a third past the slip cordon only to nick to Virat Kohli at second slip, but he couldn’t seize the chance. Two overs later, Guptil padded up to Ojha, fullstretch to a ball that may have hit him in line with off stump. Replays indicated it was spinning away from the stumps. This has been the only piece of misfortune in New Zealand’s batting so far in this Test match. The situation they find themselves in has otherwise been of their own making.

Ashwin had begun the second innings on a hat-trick, introduced only in the 18th over, the last before the downpour. Off the three balls he got in, McCullum spanked one tossed-up, outside-off delivery for his first boundary in 58 balls. It was an unusual kind of McCullum innings, but his approach was not a bad way to attempt to erase the memory of what New Zealand had managed in the previous two sessions.

When play began today Zaheer Khan and Umesh Yadav opened the bowling in what appeared to be a warming-up formality. Yadav took the only New Zealand wicket that didn’t fall to a spinner, Kruger van Wyk leg before in the second over of the day. Yadav made use of the inconsistent bounce at one end, getting van Wyk while he was trying to execute the pull. He was struck above the pad, given out as he crouched – the ball would have hit the stumps as vanWyk is not the tallest of men.

Doug Bracewell survived competently for four overs against the two-man seam attack. The eighth ball that he faced against Pragyan Ojha though, he was in knots, caught between the intent to charge and the necessity to defend. He still scored two with a lofted drive over cover. He followed up by stepping out again, but his heave missed the line completely as the ball looped away. Dhoni’s stumping splayed the wickets.

If Ojha got his wicket in quick time, Ashwin, brought on in the 16th over of the morning, needed only three overs to get rid of the three remaining batsmen. Patel reached out for a drive, only to offer a low return-catch to Ashwin’s left. A ball turning in front of his bat got Trent Boult inside edging to shot leg Gambhir. The No. 11 Chris Martin did defend, but only got the thin air in front of his bat as Ashwin’s off-break cannoned into the stumps.

All that stands between India and New Zealand and their varied hopes in this Test match, now, is the weather.

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