Bhuvneshwar swings India into the driver's seat (Roundup)
Kolkata, Oct 1 (IANS) Pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar took five wickets to put New Zealand in the woods as India took giant strides towards an unassailable 2-0 series lead on a rain-truncated Day Two of the second cricket Test here on Saturday.
Bhuvneshwar (5-33) exploited the overcast conditions in the final session as he displayed his full repertoire of swing bowling to shave off New Zealand's top order leaving them on 128/7 at stumps before a motley but appreciative crowd of around 7,000 at the Eden Gardens.
This was the Uttar Pradesh bowler's fourth five-wicket haul in 15 Tests. It was the first time that he achieved the feat on home soil.
The other Indian pacer, Mohammad Shami (1-46) played the perfect foil to keep up the pressure on the visitors, who now trail India by 188 runs with just three wickets in hand, and need to come up with an excellent show to reverse the unfolding script. B.J. Watling (12) and Jeetan Patel (5) were in the middle at the close of play.
The Kiwis had lost the first Test in Kanpur by 197 runs.
In the morning, resuming at the overnight 239/7, India's first innings ended at 316, with Wriddhiman Saha doing justice to his new-found reputation of scoring vital runs in the lower-order enroute to notching up an unbeaten half-century -- the third in his Test career.
Saha (54 not out; 85 balls, 7x4, 2x6) seems to have heeded Ajinkya Rahane's statement on Friday that India needed a 300 plus score in the first innings, as he batted with determination to extend the hosts's first essay 87 minutes into the morning session.
Saha played a crucial part in two partnerships with Ravindra Jadeja for the eighth wicket (41) and Shami (35) for the last.
The New Zealand batsmen struggled to cope with the swing and guile of Bhuvneshwar and Shami as both openers Tom Latham (1) and Martin Guptill (13) fell in quick succession, with the visitors on 21/2 at lunch.
Bhuvneshwar was particularly sharp, first removing Martin Guptill (13) before lunch and then seeing the back of Henry Nicolls (1) in the second session with inswinging deliveries.
Shami, on the other hand, struck in his first over to dismiss Latham leg before.
Luke Ronchi (35; 52 balls, 5x4, 1x6) and stand-in skipper Ross Taylor (36; 80 balls, 5x4) then added 62 runs for the fourth wicket, but the partnership could have been terminated earlier had Gautam Gambhir not dropped Ronchi at short point.
Just before the rain interruption, which led to a net loss of 111 minutes of playing time and an early tea break, Ronchi was trapped on his backfoot by an angled delivery from Jadeja which seemed to have gone down the leg but umpire Rod Tucker had other ideas as he gifted India another breakthrough.
New Zealand were on 85/4 at the time.
Bhuvneshwar, who kept up a perfect line and length, took the prized wicket of Taylor inducing a nick to the first slip.
The 26-year-old bowler was on a hattrick in his 10th over, trapping debutant Mitchell Santner (9) plumb before the wicket with a low angular delivery and then unsettled the stumps of Matt Henry (0) with another beauty of a delivery.
Jeetan Patel somehow managed to prevent the hatrick, as the away swinger barely missed his edge.
In the morning, Saha braved a barrage of short-pitch deliveries and looked in fine touch caressing the second ball of the day through covers for four elegantly. The diminutive stumper never looked back, taking the Kiwi attack to the cleaners.
Preferring the off-side, Saha hit seven fours and two sixes enroute to his half-century which he scored in 109 minutes.
In the fear of running out of partners, Saha upped the ante as soon as the other overnight batsman Ravindra Jadeja fell for 14, hooking a short ball straight to long leg.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami did not last long falling to Santner and Trent Boult respectively.
(Debayan Mukherjee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)