BANGALORE: India survived a mini collapse to sweep the series against a fighting New Zealand with a five-wicket victory on the penultimate day of the second and final Test in Bangalore on Monday.
The hosts slipped from 152-2 to 166-5 before achieving their 261-run target in the final session, thanks to a 96-run stand between man-of-the-match Virat Kohli (51 not out) and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (48 not out) under pressure.
India won the opening Test by an innings and 115 runs in Hyderabad.
New Zealand fought well as they twice neutralised India's advantage to storm back into the match on a good pitch before Dhoni and Kohli steered their team home, much to the delight of the nearly 15,000 spectators.
The Indian captain finished the match with a six over mid-wicket off off-spinner Jeetan Patel, who took three wickets. Dhoni hit two sixes and three fours, while Kohli cracked nine fours.
The 2-0 win in India's first series after the retirement of batting stars Rahul Dravid and Venkatsai Laxman augured well for them ahead of tougher home assignments against England and Australia, who play four Tests each this season.
India's Test image also got a boost, especially after a dismal overseas run in the past 12 months which saw them crash to eight successive defeats, four each in England and Australia.
They also lost their number one ranking in the process and are currently ranked number five in Tests.
“Virat's batting was superb. He fought well and soaked up the pressure. We all knew that after 40-45 overs it would easier,” said Dhoni.
“The spinners bowled brilliantly and the catching was good.”
India were 77 without loss after brisk knocks from Virender Sehwag (38) and Gautam Gambhir (34) and then 152-2 following a 69-run stand between Cheteshwar Pujara (48) and Sachin Tendulkar (27) before New Zealand struck back.
The tourists came back strongly after tea, which was taken early due to rain, as they dismissed well-set Pujara, Tendulkar and Suresh Raina (0) in the space of 14 runs.
The 39-year-old Tendulkar was bowled for a third successive innings in the series, this time by fast bowler Tim Southee, after hitting five fours in his 34-ball knock.
The world's leading scorer in both Test and one-day cricket with an unprecedented 100 international centuries, Tendulkar finished the series without a half-century in three innings.
“We had our chances and showed character to come back from a terrible Test in Hyderabad. We came with some standards we wanted to maintain, which we did in patches,” said New Zealand skipper Ross Taylor.
“They way Kohli and Dhoni batted was outstanding.”
Patel had Pujara caught by Daniel Flynn, who ran backwards from forward short-leg to take a superb diving catch, and then bowled Raina.
Tendulkar and Pujara steadied the innings after Sehwag and Gambhir had fallen in the morning in the space of six runs.
Pujara, who scored a solid 159 in the first Test, was on 37 when he survived a stumping chance off Patel as wicket-keeper Brendon McCullum failed to collect the ball.
McCullum kept wicket in place of Kruger van Wyk, who was injured after being struck on the arm by a delivery from paceman Umesh Yadav while batting on Sunday.
The New Zealand skipper pressed Patel into the attack in the 12th over after pacemen Trent Boult, Southee and Doug Bracewell had failed to provide the breakthrough in overcast conditions.
Sehwag lofted Patel over long-off, the first six of the innings, and then cut him for a four before falling in the same over. He stepped out to try another big shot, but missed the line and was bowled.
He smashed one six and seven fours in his 33-ball knock.
Gambhir went for his shots early in the innings, hitting Boult and Bracewell each for two successive fours before falling to a loose shot.
He was caught by Taylor at first slip off Boult after hitting seven fours in his 58-ball knock.
New Zealand were earlier bowled out for 248 in their second innings, adding 16 runs to their overnight total of 232-9.
Patel (22), the last man out, looked unhappy with the decision when given caught behind off left-arm paceman Zaheer Khan, as the TV replays suggested he had missed the ball.
Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin finished with 5-69, his third five-wicket haul in four innings against New Zealand. He was named man of the series.