Auckland: Chasing a stiff target of 407 runs to win, Team India went down fighting and were dismissed for 366 in their second innings as they slumped to a 40-run defeat against New Zealand in the first Test at Eden Park in Auckland on Sunday. It was a roller-coaster fourth day with with India showing enormous steel led by Shikhar Dhawan (115) but middle order failed to take India home.
India resumed their second innings at 87 for 1 and the visitors were on course with Shikhar Dhawan (115) and Virat Kohli (67) sharing 126 runs for the third wicket but pacer Neil Wagner took two crucial wickets in the post-lunch session to derail India's chase.
After a disastrous tour, Dhawan returned to form as he cracked a patient century and anchored the Indian innings along with Kohli but Wagner's double blow left India tottering at 270 for 5 at tea and it was left to skipper MS Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja, who launched a counterattack to leave the Kiwis dazed but once they departed India failed to overhaul the target.
Team India started the day still in need of 320 runs with nine wickets in hand and Dhawan and Pujara looked to provide them a solid start. In the very first over of the day, Dhawan brought up his fifty hitting five fours. Dhawan had a shaky start as he survived a couple of LBW shots, even through they seemed to be sailing over the stumps.
The Kiwis were bowling a decent line and length early in the innings, especially Tim Southee and he was soon rewarded for it as he picked up Pujara, who could do nothing but play at it and edged it to the keeper. Pujara was out for 23 runs.
Kohli then came out to bat and was involved in 126-run stand along with Dhawan. He tempered his batting according to the situation, mixing aggression with defence. Dhawan and Kohli had broken the shackles in the morning session and looked to further increase their 84-run stand. They began in the same fashion as before lunch, scoring freely while being watchful at times, and brought up their 100-run partnership in the 59th over of the innings as also the 200-mark for the chase.
Dhawan then reached his second Test hundred, off 169 balls, with eleven fours and one six. Kohli was looking to make another big one but Wagner dismissed him to put Kiwis back in the match. He tried to pull a short and very wide delivery from Wagner, and only ended up getting a fine edge, collected low by keeper BJ Watling. Wagner then struck against as his well disguised short ball got rid off Dhawan. The opener couldn't get out of its way and gloved it to the keeper, knocking India's momentum.
It got worse as Kiwis struck with the second new ball immediately. Boult got the ball to swing back but it had a thick inside edge which umpire Steve Davis did not notice and gave Ajinkya Rahane (18) out LBW, leaving India breathless again. India were 270 for 5 at tea, needing another 137 runs to win the Test.
But Ravindra Jadeja and MS Dhoni changed the course of the match and they started conuter-attacking New Zealand pacers. When it was looking that the duo will take India home, India's aggressive approach came to haunt them back. Jadjea hit 26 runs, off only 21 balls, with four fours and one six as the 50-run partnership came in only 33 balls. The target too came down to 83 runs when he was dismissed, caught at mid-on off Boult.
Zaheer Khan looked to soak some pressure as he scored useful 17 but was out at crucial time when Wagner forced an edge of him and was caught in the slips. But it was Dhoni's dismissal off Wagner which put an end to the drama. Despite replays showing Wagner was bowling wide of the crease with his right foot touching the outside of the crease, no ball was not given and Dhoni was asked to walk off the pitch, when he was on 39.
Boult wrapped up the Indian innings with Ishant Sharma's (4) wicket. While umpiring decisions may have robbed India their opportunities at critical moments, the New Zealand pace trio of Southee, Wagner and Boult made a huge difference in both the innings. Wagner picked up eight wickets in the match. India will play New Zealand in the second Test starting in Wellington on February 14.