HYDERABAD: Ravichandran Ashwin grabbed three quick wickets as India gained the upper hand on the second day of the opening Test against New Zealand in Hyderabad on Friday.
Off-spinner Ashwin took 3-30 and left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha bagged two wickets as New Zealand struggled to reach 106-5 in their first innings at stumps in reply to India's 438.
The tourists now need 133 more runs to avoid a follow-on with five wickets in hand. James Franklin was unbeaten on 31 at stumps with Kruger van Wyk who had yet to open his account.
Cheteshwar Pujara earlier cracked a solid 159 and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni hit 73 as India added 131 runs to their overnight total of 307-5 before being bowled out at the stroke of tea.
“I thought we guys bowled well and we should be eyeing a follow-on. If you put 440 on the board, you expect to be in a dominant position at the end of the day,” said Ashwin.
“I think the new ball was a little bit hard and the seam was a little more upright when we spinners started bowling. That helped us get a bit of bounce and get a few wickets up front. We have to be patient to get wickets tomorrow.”
Ashwin and Ojha got a wicket in their opening overs, removing Brendon McCullum (22) and Martin Guptill (two). McCullum hit three fours in his 27-ball knock.
Dhoni pressed Ojha into the attack after only seven overs of pace and the spinner struck with his third delivery when he had McCullum caught by Virat Kohli in the covers.
Ashwin got a wicket with his first delivery when he had Guptill caught by Kohli at backward short-leg before removing captain Ross Taylor (two) in his next over, caught by the same fielder.
New Zealand's batting woes against spin continued in the last session when the floodlights were on as Daniel Flynn (16) was trapped leg-before while attempting to sweep Ashwin.
The Indian off-spinner's three wickets came in his opening five overs for just six runs. Ojha got his second wicket when he had Kane Williamson (32) caught by Virender Sehwag in the slips.
Dhoni and Pujara earlier consolidated India's position with a 127-run stand for the sixth wicket, while Ashwin contributed 37 runs with five boundaries.
Pujara, who replaced retired Rahul Dravid at number three, and Dhoni fell to off-spinner Jeetan Patel in the afternoon session, but not before strengthening their team's position. “They bowled some good balls and we nicked them,” said Patel, who finished with 4-100.
“It (the wicket) is starting to take turn, probably a little bit earlier than we expected. Obviously getting four-for is nice, but I will have to get more than that to get us over the line.”
The 24-year-old Pujara, playing only his fourth Test, stepped out to attempt a big shot but miscued it and Franklin took a well-judged catch running back from mid-on. He smashed one six and 19 fours in his 306-ball knock.
The Indian captain also fell playing an attacking shot, caught by Doug Bracewell at mid-off after hitting one six and six fours in his 25th Test half-century.
New Zealand took the last five Indian wickets in the afternoon, with Patel and left-arm paceman Trent Boult being the successful bowlers. Boult finished with 3-93.
Dhoni, who was 29 not out on Thursday, completed his half-century when he turned Bracewell to mid-wicket for three runs.
Pujara, 119 overnight, continued to gather runs comfortably against the New Zealand attack and played some handsome shots as he hit two fours in an over from Boult and then pulled Bracewell for a boundary to reach 150.