There cannot be a better treat than watching a class batsman with rock solid grit in action. Playing a crucial knock of 82 and propelling India to a comfortable lead of 339 runs on the third day of the second Test against New Zealand at the Eden Gardens here on Sunday, Rohit Sharma underlined that he belonged to the rare league of batsmen born to entertain cricket lovers in all forms of the game.
At his favourite venue, Rohit (82) lived up to the faith reposed in him by the team to score his sixth half-century and second of the series. He contributed in two invaluable partnerships, 48 with Virat Kohli for the fifth wicket and 103 runs with Wriddhiman Saha for the seventh wicket, as India recovered from a precarious 43 for four to close at 227 for eight in its second innings.
Already given a target which had never been chased here, New Zealand, which resumed from 128 for seven to score 204 and hand the host a 112-run first innings lead, had an imposing task of saving the Test and the series.
India's bid to erect an uphill target was jolted as it lost four batsmen in no time. Wrecker-in-chief Matt Henry again bowled a tidy line to account for three of them. Murali Vijay edged it to the second slip, Cheteshwar Pujara, who recovered from his illness to be back in action, was adjudged lbw and Ajinkya Rahane gifted a top edge to the fine-leg fielder.
Shikhar Dhawan, hit by some bouncing stuff from Boult, fought well before being trapped in front.
The New Zealand pacers worked hard in the excruciating heat to set up a trap for Kohli but the Indian captain refused to oblige. Showcasing his positive brand of cricket, Kohli, who was tested severely with short deliveries to a heavily-manned onside field, tapped the ball and rotated the strike.
He made batting look easier on a two-paced pitch and struck seven delectable boundaries, including two each in particular Henry and Jeetan Patel overs, to get his best score in seven innings. Kohli's stand with Rohit provided a much-needed platform to India.
Kohli was ditched by a disappointingly low Trent Boult delivery when his team, which lost six wickets in the middle session, needed him to carry on the good work.
However, Rohit took over the responsibility and played a watchful knock. Pacing his innings nicely, he found an able partner in Saha and took India past the 300-run lead.
Rohit, who opened up to hammer nine magnificent fours and pull Patel and Boult for exhilarating sixes, did a world of good to his confidence. He was caught behind off Santner in the closing minutes.
Beginning from where he had left off in the first essay, Saha (39 batting) was sensible in his approach and choosy in stroke-making while looking to expand the lead.
Taking a cue from the Indian lower order, the New Zealand's tail added 76 runs in about 90 minutes. Patel played a stroke-filled 47 to achieve his personal best, containing nine boundaries, and garner 60 runs for the eighth wicket with B.J. Watling. It was New Zealand's highest partnership of the innings.
Patel hit three fours before being given lbw in a Ravindra Jadeja over. He survived as television replays showed Jadeja had overstepped.
However, sooner than later, Patel was caught at mid-off in R. Ashwin's first delivery of the day. The Indian trump card bowling only eight overs spoke a lot about the track.
Shami bowled with a lot of control. With the aid of some reverse swing, he had Watling trapped in front. Shami captured Neil Wagner to record his three-wicket haul. It was a rare occasion when Indian pacers took eight wickets in an innings while playing at home.
India 1st innings: 316
New Zealand 1st innings: 204 all out in 53 overs (J S Patel 47; B Kumar 5/48, M Shami 3/70).
India 2nd innings:
Vijay c Guptill b Henry 7
Dhawan lbw b Boult 17
Pujara lbw b Henry 4
Kohli lbw b Boult 45
Rahane c Boult b Henry 1
Rohit c Ronchi b Santner 82
Ashwin lbw b Santner 5
Saha not out 39
Jadeja c sub b Santner 6
Kumar not out 8
Extras: (B-10, LB-1, W-2) 13
Total: (for 8 wickets in 63.2 overs) 227
Fall of wickets: 1-12, 2-24, 3-34, 4-43, 5-91, 6-106, 7-209, 8-215
Bowling: Boult 14-5-28-2, Henry 15.2-2-44-3, Wagner 13-2-43-0, Patel 8-0-50-0, Santner 13-1-51-3.Tweet
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