WELLINGTON: Ajinkya Rahane cracked his maiden ton as India dished out a dominant batting display to take a massive 246-run lead and put themselves in the drivers’ seat over New Zealand in the second and final Test on Saturday.
Rahane, playing in his fifth Test, struck a classy 118 which he made from 158 deliveries with the help of 17 fours and a six as India scored 438 all out on the second day in reply to New Zealand’s 192 on a Basin Reserve pitch which has considerably eased out in favour of batsmen.
Zaheer Khan then dismissed opener Peter Fulton for just one as New Zealand ended the day on 24 for one, still trailing by 222 runs with nine second innings wickets in hand.
Rahane bettered his previous highest score of 96, made in Durban against South Africa in December last. He put on a 120-run seventh wicket stand with skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (68 off 86 balls) as India pressed their advantage in the post-tea session with some aggressive batting.
Opener Shikhar Dhawan (98) was unlucky to miss out on a century by just two runs.
India also scored at a brisk pace, adding 338 runs from 74.4 at 4.26 runs per over overall.
For New Zealand, Tim Southee (3/93), Trent Boult (3/99), Neil Wagner (3/106) and James Neesham (1/62) shared the spoils among them. Corey Anderson (0/66) went wicket-less.
Starting off at 301/6 post-tea, Rahane and Dhoni scored runs at a quick clip, especially the latter.
The Indian captain brought up his 29th Test fifty off 64 balls with six fours and one six, in the 86th over. Two overs later, they brought up their 100-run partnership. Just as it was looking too easy for the Indian batsmen, Dhoni was strangled down the leg-side and caught by keeper BJ Watling off Boult in the 93rd over.
Ravindra Jadeja (26 off 16 balls) came to the crease and started hitting out, living by the sword and dying by it, in the 97th over. He added 37 runs with Rahane who was now beginning to run out of partners.
But Zaheer hung around long enough for Rahane to complete his richly deserved maiden hundred, coming off 149 balls, with 15 fours.
After becoming the 76th Indian batsman to score a Test century, he changed gears to add 38 quick runs with Zaheer, who scored 22 runs of 19 balls with the help of four fours.
At the other end, Rahane’s superb innings was brought to an end by an equally stupendous one-handed catch in the deep by Boult in the 102nd over. An over later, India were bowled out, with Zaheer edging behind.
Earlier, Rahane had helped India reached 301/6 at tea. Along with Virat Kohli, he looked to bat for time and get a substantial lead for the team. They batted with confidence and picked their areas to score. While the former looked to attack, the latter played a solid game, and neither bothered about the run-rate.
The duo brought up their 50-run partnership in the 62nd over and yet did not change gears, looking set for a longer innings together. But then, against the run of play, Neil Wagner got Kohli driving and caught at short cover, much to the dismay of the batsman. Kohli made 38 runs off 93 balls.
Dhoni’s entry to the crease was an important passage of play for India thereafter, because any more wickets would have meant the tail being exposed to the new ball. He played an attacking game first up and then settled down to build a partnership with Rahane.
Rahane brought up his half-century off 93 balls with seven fours, and his 50-run partnership with Dhoni for the seventh wicket in the 78th over.
BRIEF SCORES: New Zealand 192 and 24 for 1 trail India 438 (Rahane 118, Dhawan 98, Dhoni 68) lead by 222 runs