India notched up a mammoth 197-run win in their historic 500th cricket Test to assert their supremacy in home conditions, bowling out New Zealand for 236 to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series on Monday.
After setting the Kiwis a rather improbable target of 434, the Indian bowlers, especially senior off spinner Ravichandran Ashwin (6/132), revelled in home conditions to rip through the visiting team’s line-up with more than a session to spare.
Beginning the day at a precarious 93 for four, overnight New Zealand batsmen Luke Ronchi (80) and Mitchell Santner (71) frustrated the Indian bowlers for only about 20 overs by adding 65 runs in the morning session but that only delayed the inevitable.
The Black Caps raised hopes of a fight till the time Ronchi and Santner held fort but it all went downhill for them when the former played an extravagant slog sweep off Ravindra Jadeja, handing India the opening.
Ashwin (6/132) completed his fifth six-wicket haul by adding scalps of Santner and Ish Sodhi (17) and Neil Wagner (0) to his three wickets grabbed on Sunday when he had become the second-fastest man to take 200-Test wickets.
Jadeja took one wicket on Monday while Mohammed Shami, who got some reverse swing, scalped two batsmen in the morning session.
Ashwin grabbed the remaining three wickets in the post-lunch session to complete India’s victory, their 88th on home turf.
Both the teams will now travel to Kolkata, where the second Test is scheduled to begin from Friday.
The Kiwis struggled to negotiate a slow track, which offered occasional turn and bounce but improved as the match wore on.
The visitors, chasing a mammoth 434-run target, had a daunting task at hand to bat out three full sessions on the fifth day, which has always been a big challenge for tourists in India.
With this win, India have taken their unbeaten tally on home soil to 11 matches. New Zealand, on the other hand, have remained without a win on the Indian soil since 1998.
It was Ronchi, who handed India the opening when he went for a sweep slog against Jadeja and ended up handing a top-edge to Aswhin at point. The mistake ended his 102-run stand with Santner, who scored his maiden Test fifty and kept fighting in the second session.
After Ronchi’s departure, Santner remained solid from one end and defied the Indian bowlers for the next 10 overs with BJ Watling (18).
Together they were involved in a 36-run stand, which was broken by paceman Shami, who trapped the wicket-keeper batsman LBW.
In his next over, Shami breached the defence of Mark Craig. In a double blow to the Kiwis, Craig was also ruled out of the series due to a side strain. Jeetan Patel has been named his replacement in the squad.
The two wickets in successive overs, pegged New Zealand back and they were on the verge of a huge defeat.
Santner struck seven fours and two sixes in his 179-ball fighting knock, before an Ashwin delivery jumped and turned from outside leg, took an edge and went straight to silly point fielder Rohit Sharma.
India needed only three wickets in the second session and the in-form Ashwin took all three as he sent back Sodhi and Wagner.
At the start of the day, batting with utmost caution, the overnight New Zealand players took 19 balls to score their first run but after getting their eye in, Ronchi and Santner negotiated the spin confidently to keep the hosts waiting for an early opening.
Both Jadeja and Ashwin flighted the ball through the air, opting full length most of the time. Ronchi comfortably drove Jadeja in the cover region and Santner did not mind using his feet.
The two Kiwi batsmen soon started to score at a brisk pace with Santner even slog-sweeping Jadeja for a huge six over the mid-wicket region. After persisting with Jadeja and Ashwin for 12 overs, India captain Virat Kohli asked paceman Umesh Yadav to bowl.
They frustrated India for the first hour and the hosts struck in the first over after drinks break when Ronchi was guilty of slogging a Jadeja ball. That dismissal ended the Black Caps hopes of saving the match as rest of the line-up failed to give Santner the support he needed to negotiate the day.
With this win, India have also inched closer to the No.1 spot in the ICC Test rankings. Virat Kohli’s men need to win this series to go on top in the list.
After the Kolkata Test, the two teams will travel to Indore for the series finale, which is scheduled from October 8.