India in dire straits, Kiwis have firm grip on Auckland Test

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Auckland, Feb 7 (IANS) India were struggling to save the first Test here as they trailed New Zealand by massive 373 runs in the first innings with only six wickets in hand after second day’s play at the Eden Park here Friday.

New Zealand were in complete control of the match after a record 224 from skipper Brendon McCullum took them to a mammoth 503 all out in first innings. The pacers then left India struggling at 130 for four when stumps were drawn early due to bad light.

Rohit Sharma was batting on 67 and Ajinkya Rahane on 23 as India face an uphill battle of not only to avoid the ignominy of follow on but also their 10th loss overseas in 11 Tests.

India went into the tea break at 45 for three and then came back to add another 85 runs and lost the wicket of opener Murali Vijay (26) before play was stopped.

During a heavily overcast afternoon, New Zealand’s Trent Boult and Tim Southee rocked the Indian top order.

Left-arm pacer Boult struck twice in his first over. First he squared up left-hander Shikhar Dhawan, who edged to Kane Williamson at gully and then picked up Cheteshwar Pujara in the third ball with gloveman Brian Watling taking an easy catch.

Southee removed Virat Kohli (4) in a controversial fashion when he cracked a bouncer that hit the batsman’s helmet before flying to Peter Fulton at second slip. Kohli pointed to his helmet and looked shocked at umpire Richard Kettleborough’s decision and India were reduced to 10 for three in the sixth over. But TV replays showed that the ball touched the thumb of his glove.

Earlier, a record double ton by McCullum took New Zealand to a mammoth first innings total.

McCullum’s 224 was the highest Test score by a Kiwi batsman at the Eden Park.

The Kiwi skipper and alongwith Corey Anderson (77) stitched a valuable 133-run stand for the fifth wicket that took the hosts to a comfortable position. McCullum, who was on 143 overnight, reached his second Test double-century off the final ball before lunch to etch his name into the record books.

He struck left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja for a six over long to move to 198 and raised his double ton by slog-sweeping him for a four through square leg.

It was a chanceless innings by the New Zealand captain and he was congratulated by the Indian team. He took 462 minutes and 307 deliveries to score 224 that was studded with 29 fours and five sixes.A

McCullum also passed Ian Smith’s New Zealand record Test innings at Eden Park of 173, against India in 1990. The skipper struck the equal ninth-highest Test knock by a New Zealander.

McCullum fell one short of his highest and was the last man out with Jadeja taking a juggling boundary catch. His highest Test score, 225, was against the visitors in Hyderabad in 2010.

He joined Walter Hammond, Daryll Cullinan, Javed Miandad, Keith Fletcher and Gordon Greenidge, who have scored double-centuries at the ground. It was also McCullum’s second double century against India.

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