India duo trigger NZ collapse
Ross Taylor and Jesse Ryder (AP)
Nagpur - India rode on some fine performances by their under-fire bowlers to restrict New Zealand to 148/7 and seize early control of the series-deciding third and final Test on Saturday.
New-ball bowlers Shanthakumaran Sreesanth (2-20) and Ishant Sharma (2-32) provided early breakthroughs before the spinners got in on the act on a lively wicket at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium in Nagpur.
Brendon McCullum, who came in to bat at number eight after injuring his back on the morning of the match, was unbeaten on 34 when stumps were drawn on the opening day.
Tim Southee (seven) was the other not out batsman.
New Zealand owed much to left-handed batsman Jesse Ryder who defied a calf injury to top-score with a fine 59 off 113 balls.
The gallant show by McCullum and Ryder seemed to be the only high point for the visitors, seeking to win a first-ever Test series in India after the first two matches ended in draws.
India's bowling attack, depleted in the absence of injured pace spearhead Zaheer Khan, put in an inspired performance after fielding much criticism for their lacklustre show in Ahmedabad and Hyderabad.
"We are in a good position," said Indian left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha. "We have dismissed their top batsmen, except for McCullum. It is a matter of time before we get the remaining wickets.
"Once we do that, we will look at building a good total and put them under pressure."
New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori's decision to bat first backfired miserably with half of the side back in the pavilion by the 17th over after a delayed start due to a wet outfield.
"The nature of the wicket suggested that we bat first," said Vettori. "So I have no regrets over my decision. They put the ball in the right areas. Apart from my dismissal, you cannot say the batsmen threw away their wickets.
"As for McCullum, he keeps getting these spasms. So we took a chance with him, hoping he will come in to bat only tomorrow (Sunday) morning."
Martin Guptill, opening the innings in place of McCullum, nicked Sreesanth behind the stumps in the seventh over of the day to give India their first breakthrough.
Sreesanth picked his second wicket in his next over, claiming Tim McIntosh (four) with a ball that sneaked between the bat and pad to uproot the off-stump.
Sharma, playing his first match of the series, got the big wicket of Ross Taylor when he had him trapped plumb in front of the wicket for a 24-ball 20, including three fours.
Ojha reduced the visitors to 43/4 after Kane Williamson (zero) offered a simple catch to Virender Sehwag at short cover.
Sharma struck again in his second spell to remove Vettori, who played onto his stumps while trying to play a pull shot.
Gareth Hopkins (seven) failed to break his poor batting slump, edging Ojha to the slips where Suresh Raina took a fine catch.
The wicketkeeper-batsman has just 36 runs from four innings in the series.
Raina pulled off another smart catch to dismiss Ryder who scooped off-spinner Harbhajan Singh to extra cover. He struck five fours during his three-hour innings.
No play was possible in the first session due to dampness in the outfield caused by intermittent rain over the past week.
India: V Sehwag, G Gambhir, R Dravid, SR Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, SK Raina, MS Dhoni (captain & wk), Harbhajan Singh, S Sreesanth, PP Ojha, I Sharma
New Zealand: BB McCullum, TG McIntosh, MJ Guptill, LRPL Taylor, JD Ryder, KS Williamson, DL Vettori (captain), GJ Hopkins (wk), CS Martin, TG Southee, AJ McKay