Bengaluru, Nov. 28: The Indian lower order rose to the occasion as the hosts found themselves on top at the end of the fourth day of the opening test against New Zealand in Kanpur on Sunday.
New Zealand bowlers put the hosts on the backfoot as wickets tumbled, before Shreyas Iyer and the lower order shouldered the responsibility to help pile up the runs. Just on the cusp of stumps, India declared their second innings at 237/7d, handing New Zealand a target of 284 to win the first Test of the two-match Test series.
For India, Iyer, who scored a century on his Test debut, shone with the bat once again with a solid 65, before Wriddhiman Saha and Axar Patel fought back to guide India to 234. Saha (61) and Patel (28) remained unbeaten as the hosts declared just before end of day's play.
At stumps, the Kiwis score read 4/1 with opener Tom Latham (2) and William Somerville (0) unbeaten at the crease. Ravichandran Ashwin handed India the first wicket, removing Will Young for just 2.
Resuming play on the fourth day, India had a cushion of a 63-runs and Mayank Agarwal and Cheteshwar Pujara at the crease. India began day's play with one wicket already done, and the Kiwi bowlers piled the pressure as the hosts struggled to get going with the bat.
At one stage with India reduced to 51 for 5 after 20 overs, it looked like the Kiwis would wrap it up quickly. Tim Southee's double wicket maiden over and Kylie Jamieson's early strikes put the visitors on top ahead of lunch at the Green Park Stadium. Skipper Rahane (4) and Pujara's (22) once again found themselves in trouble.
Southee, Jamieson pocketed three wickets each, to put the visitors in charge. But debutant Shreyas Iyer once again played a solid knock to lift the hosts out of the woods along with a solid knock from Ashwin (32). Iyer then went on to stitch an important partnership with Wriddhiman Saha to put India back in charge.
Shreyas Iyer, who top scored for the hosts in both innings, achieved a rare feat on Sunday. Shreyas became the first Indian batsman to score a hundred and a fifty on Test debut.
Following the Mumbai batsman's departure and seven wickets down, Saha and Axar Patel stitched up an unbeaten partnership of 67 off 124 to guide India to a healthy lead. The third session belonged to the hosts as the pair quickly added the runs. With enough runs on the board, skipper Rahane declared the hosts' second innings.
With stumps just round the corner, India bowled four overs. But the overs turned out crucial for the hosts as Ashwin picked up an early wicket. But with nine wickets in hand the final day's play promises to be an interesting encounter with either side capable of turning the tables and pocketing the Kanpur Test.