Tim Southee and Kyle Jamieson had reduced India to 51/5 early on Sunday. But some mature partnerships among Shreyas Iyer, Ravichandran Ashwin, Wriddhiman Saha and Axar Patel lifted the hosts to an almost impregnable lead of 294. New Zealand lost Will Young in the second innings, going to stumps at 14/1.
Speaking to ESPNcricinfo after the conclusion of the day, Wasim Jaffer said India will be happy to see New Zealand attempt chasing the total, but admitted that they are unlikely to do so. He remarked that Day 5 is "looking down" for the Black Caps.
The former opener said:
"275 (280) on the last day is always going to be tough and I think they (India) knew that and that is the reason why they probably declared. And they would be happy if New Zealand goes for runs. That will give them a chance to pick wickets. On a pitch like this, if somebody just goes into the defensive mode it might get a bit difficult. But India knows that New Zealand will only try and bat out for a draw which will make them have three-four guys around the bat and you know, it's looking down for New Zealand from hereon."
While Iyer and Saha's knocks of 65 and 61 respectively were critical, it was Ashwin's cameo of 32 (62) that changed the course of the game. His attacking intent, which included five boundaries, put pressure back on the visitors, allowing the Indian dressing room to settle. Ashwin also made Young his victim for the second time in the match, though via an unlucky spate of events.
"That one wicket would satisfy everything India wanted" - Daniel Vettori
Speaking in the same interaction, former New Zealand spinner Daniel Vettori also added to Wasim Jaffer's arguments. He admitted that India might have been better-placed by attacking more before declaring, but added that Ajinkya Rahane and Co. would still be pleased with the situation. Vettori said:
"That one wicket would satisfy everything India wanted. When you see something like that happen [you think], 'Why couldn't they have gone harder and given themselves another 6-7 overs to get New Zealand two down and that would have made tomorrow's proceedings vastly different'. [But] as it is, India is still well in control and that lead is quite daunting when it comes to a 5th day Kanpur wicket. Whilst you can question the last half an hour or hour of that session, then India would be satisfied with where they are at."
The average 4th innings score in the Green Park Stadium is 135 and the highest score chased here is 83. New Zealand will have an uphill task preventing India from taking a 1-0 lead in the two-Test series.