India 144-4, trails NZ by 39 at stumps on day 3, 1st test

STEVE McMORRAN
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New Zealand India Cricket

New Zealand's Trent Boult celebrates bowling India's Cheteshwar Pujara for 11 during the first cricket test between India and New Zealand at the Basin Reserve in Wellington, New Zealand, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Ross Setford)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand edged closer to an unexpected victory over top-ranked India in the ICC Test Championship when it drove home the advantage of a 183-run first innings lead on the third day of the first test.

India has won its first seven matches in the championship but its unbeaten record hangs in the balance after it ended the day at 144-4, still 39 runs behind New Zealand with only six second innings wickets in hand.

Ajinkya Rahane was 25 and Hanuma Vihari 15 at stumps which were drawn unusually late at 7.30pm local time Sunday with long shadows draped across the Basin Reserve. But the strength of India's batting was in the pavilion as it attempts to overcome a substantial first innings deficit.

New Zealand gained the upper hand when it replied with 348 to India's first innings of 165. It began the day only 51 runs ahead at 216-5 but solidified its position when its last three wickets produced 123 runs.

Colin de Grandhomme (43) and Kyle Jamieson (44) put on 71 for the eighth wicket, then Trent Boult smashed 38 at No. 11 to substantially increase New Zealand's lead.

Boult then contributed with the ball, finishing with 3-27 as he dismissed Prithvi Shaw (14), Cheteshwar Pujar (11) and captain Virat Kohli (19) to strengthen New Zealand's position.

"Having them 39 runs behind and four down is a good position," Boult said. "I think all in all a good day and some good cricket played.

"I managed to get a few runs to extend the lead a little bit and it was nice to contribute a bit with the ball. It's turning into a very good wicket and if we can remain very aggressive with the ball, look to be as intimidating as we can and take a couple more wickets then who knows what's possible."

India struggled throughout the day Sunday to cope with unaccustomed conditions. Heavy overnight rain made the playing field damp at the start of the day and the India players froze in a cold southerly breeze.

When the sun came out and the day warmed, the pitch hardened and altered in character and the India players struggled to cope with the constant changes the conditions demanded.

Opener Mayank Argawal posted his fourth half-century in tests in an effort to anchor the India innings but he was out for 58 and while others batted for long periods, they did little to reduce the deficit.

Cheteshwar Pujara faced 81 balls for 11 runs and even Kohli labored for 43 deliveries for his 19 before he was caught by wicketkeeper B.J. Watling off Boult.

Earlier, Colin de Grandhomme and Kyle Jamieson put on 71 for the eighth wicket and Boult hit 38 from 24 balls as New Zealand's tail wagged to expand its first innings lead.

New Zealand resumed Sunday at 216-5, just 51 runs ahead, and lost wicketkeeper B.J. Watling (14) to the first ball of the day. Tim Southee (6) was out soon after as New Zealand, at 225-7, risked falling short of the lead it wanted after bowling out India for 165.

De Grandhomme made 43 and Jamieson 44 to swing the match back in New Zealand's favor. Jamieson continued a dream debut after taking 4-39 in India's first innigns.

Boult blasted 38 from 24 balls at No. 11 to swell New Zealand's lead and increase the pressure on India when it came to bat.

"I think we talk in the lower order and anything we can contribute is always handy," Boult said. “We do take pride in adding to the total and that was nice to do so today.”

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