Mayank Agarwal and Cheteshwar Pujara add 107 as India lead passes 400



Ajaz Patel removed both openers to take his match tally to 12, having also troubled Virat Kohli

Lunch India 325 and 142 for 2 (Agarwal 62, Pujara 47, Ajaz 2-77) lead New Zealand 62 by 405 runs

Agarwal and Pujara, who was bumped up to the top after Shubman Gill hadn’t recovered sufficiently from the blow on the elbow while fielding, added a tone-setting 30 in the first five overs of the day. Pujara ventured out of his crease twice in the very first over bowled by Ajaz, and whipped him away through the vacant midwicket region for back-to-back fours. Agarwal too lined up the left-arm fingerspinner in the early exchanges by manufacturing swinging room and cracking him through extra-cover for successive boundaries.

The opening pair extended their partnership to 107 before Ajaz had Agarwal slicing a down-the-track loft to long-off for 62. Pujara then fell three short of a half-century when Ajaz gleaned sharp turn and bounce to have him nicking off to slip where Ross Taylor plucked a low catch.

But before Ajaz made the incisions, Tim Southee did his best impression of Neil Wagner by tirelessly peppering the openers with bouncers from around the wicket with a packed leg-side field. Southee also pinged Pujara on his elbow guard and then Agarwal on his unprotected wrist.

Once Southee got a break after a spell of 8-1-17-0, Kyle Jamieson came on, and tested both Gill and Virat Kohli with the short ball. After swatting Southee to the midwicket fence, Gill flat-batted Jamieson past mid-off for another four.

At the other end, Ajaz continued to wheel away and got the ball to regularly fizz out of the footholes. Kohli was beaten on the outside edge at least twice and survived an lbw shout, thanks to an inside edge onto the pad, taking India to 142 for 2 at lunch along with Gill.

New Zealand’s other frontline spinner Will Somerville, though, didn’t bowl a single over on the third morning.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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