WELLINGTON - A maiden century to Ajinkya Rahane, inspired by advice from master batsman Sachin Tendulkar, boosted India to a formidable 246-run first innings lead over New Zealand in the Second Test in Wellington on Saturday. India were all out late in the day for 438 in reply to New Zealand's 192, with Rahane's 118 backed by 98 from Shikhar Dhawan and 68 from skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
At stumps, after facing nine overs, New Zealand were 24-1 in their second innings and with three days remaining they face a huge struggle to prevent India drawing the series. Hamish Rutherford was not out 18 with Kane Williamson on four. Peter Fulton went for one, lbw to Zaheer Khan. The promising Rahane, playing only his fifth Test, was in exquisite form as he drove and pulled the New Zealand seamers in a near chanceless innings on a Basin Reserve wicket which had lost the venom it held on the first day. He said he was inspired by words of advice from the recently retired Tendulkar. "During his last two Test matches he told me about my batting and he said 'I've been following you, your hard work, your fitness, everything, so just be patient and wait for your chance.'" He took his chance with a 158-ball knock that included 17 fours and one six before it came to an end with an exceptional catch from Trent Boult, running in from the boundary and diving forward to clasp the ball one-handed.
Dhoni was intent on pushing the run rate when he came in after Virat Kohli was removed for 38 by Neil Wager when the left-arm pacer broke a stubborn partnership with Rahane. The Indian skipper belted nine fours and a six, including four boundaries off successive balls by Wagner, until he was out getting a glove to a short ball from Boult. As valuable as Rahane's innings was to India, New Zealand keeper BJ Watling said Dhoni made the difference.
"Dhoni's counter-attack obviously hurt us and that partnership (with Rahane) was probably the difference between an okay day for us and good day for them," he said. "It's going to be a huge challenge. We're going to have to bat for a long time to get ourselves back in the game."
Ravindra Jadeja kept the India run rate moving with 26 off 16 deliveries, and Khan chimed in with 22 off 19 before he was the last wicket to fall.
Khan, though, was fortunate when on seven and India at 414-8 when he was caught at second slip by Fulton. He was recalled when replays showed the delivery was a no ball, with Wagner delivering too wide of the off stump. When India resumed the day at 100-2, New Zealand made heavy weather of removing nightwatchman Ishant Sharma.
He was twice sat on his backside while subjected to a barrage of short-pitched deliveries, but still managed to extend his score from an overnight three to 26 before he was caught behind. Dhawan, a century-maker in the first Test, reached 98 when an attempt to drive a seaming Tim Southee delivery gave Watling the second of his five catches. For New Zealand, Southee, Boult and Wagner took three wickets apiece, while debutant Jimmy Neesham bowled Rohit Sharma without scoring to claim his maiden Test wicket.
NEW ZEALAND 1ST INNINGS: 192
INDIA 1ST INNINGS:
S Dhawan c Watling b Southee 98
M Vijay c Watling b Southee 2
C Pujara lbw Boult 19
I Sharma c Watling b Boult 26
V Kohli c Rutherford b Wagner 38
R Sharma b Neesham 0
A Rahane c Boult b Southee 118
M Dhoni c Watling b Boult 68
R Jadeja c Fulton b Wagner 26
Z Khan c Watling b Wagner 22
M Shami not out 0
EXTRAS: (b8, lb4, w7, nb2) 21
TOTAL: (all out; 102.4 overs) 438
FOW: 1-2, 2-89, 3-141, 4-162, 5-165, 6-228, 7-348, 8-385, 9-423, 10-438
BOWLING: Boult 26-7-99-3, Southee 20-0-93-3, Wagner 22.4-3-106-3, Anderson 16-2-66-0, Neesham 18-2-62-1
NEW ZEALAND 2ND INNINGS:
P Fulton lbw Khan 1
H Rutherford not out 18
K Williamson not out 4
EXTRAS: (nb1) 1
TOTAL: (one wicket; nine overs) 24
BOWLING: I Sharma 3-0-9-0, Khan 3-2-7-1, Shami 3-0-8-0
UMPIRES: Steve Davis (AUS), Richard Kettleborough (ENG)
TV UMPIRE: Derek Walker (NZL)
MATCH REFEREE: Ranjan Madugalle (SRI)