India [ Images ] kept chipping away at the wickets to take the upperhand against New Zealand [ Images ] on a rain-shortened opening day of the third and final Test at the Vidarbha Cricket Association stadium in Jamtha, Nagpur on Saturday.
At stumps on day one, New Zealand were struggling at 148 for seven in 56 overs with the injured Brendon McCullum [ Images ] unbeaten on 34 from 80 balls, while Tim Southee [ Images ] was not out on seven.
Sreesanth took two for 20 in nine overs, while Ishant made a good comeback with two for 32 in 13 overs. Pragyan Ojha also continued his wicket ways with two for 49 in 19 overs, while Harbhajan Singh [ Images ] took one for 42 in 15 overs.
Earlier, New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori [ Images ] won the toss and elected to bat after the start of the match was delayed by three hours because of a wet outfield caused by persistent rain in Nagpur in the past few days.
The first two Tests in Ahmedabad [ Images ] and Hyderabad ended in high scoring draws.
Morning session: (72 runs, 26 overs, 5 wickets)
Having injured himself in the warm-up prior to the match, Brendon McCullum didn't open the innings. Martin Guptill [ Images ] was promoted to open the innings with Tim McIntosh, who scored a century in the previous Test.
The visitors batted with caution before Guptill drove Sreesanth through the off-side for the first four of the innings, in the fifth over. In the next over, Guptill smashed a short delivery from Ishant through point to get off the mark in some style.
Sreesanth provided the first breakthrough for India when he claimed the wicket of Guptill for six. The pacer bowled a perfect outswinger that pitched around the off-stump and Guptill could only edge it behind as he tried to play inside the line.
Soon Sreesanth sent the other opener back to the dressing room. He got an incoming delivery to breach Guptil's defensive prod and bowl him for four as the Kiwis were reduced to 16 for two.
India introduced spin in the form of Pragyan Ojha [ Images ], who replaced Ishant after 11 overs.
Jesse Ryder took no time to get going and looked to attack Ojha as he hit him for two boundaries in his second over, both lofted over the leg-side.
Taylor also started to open up after a sedate start as he hit a boundary each off Ishant in back to back overs. But it was the pacer who had the last laugh when he trapped Taylor leg before wicket with a fast incoming delivery for 20.
Things continued to get worse when captain Daniel Vettori played one back on to his stumps and bowled for three as he tried to pull a short delivery from Ishant.
New Zealand were reeling at 51 for five in 17 overs and their gamble of playing McCullum without knowing the extent of his injury backfired as the opener's injury was more serious than it looked initially.
Harbhajan and Ojha also seemed to enjoy bowling with an attacking field as for the first time in the series they were bowling with the opposition on the backfoot.
The Kiwis managed to avoid any further setbacks in the session as they reached 72 for five in 26 overs at tea on the opening day.
Surprisingly, India went on the defensive straightaway for Ryder, who was unbeaten on 26, while Gareth Hopkins struggled to seven.
Sreesanth and Ishant were superb with the new ball as they stuck to a good line and length and were deservedly rewarded with two for 12 and two 24 respectively.
India would be hoping to continue chipping away at the wickets and bowl out New Zealand in the final session, while the visitors must be looking to Ryder to steer them out of trouble.
Post tea session: (76 runs, 30 overs, 2 wickets)
Ryder continued in the same vein after tea when he pulled Harbhajan through the leg side for a four and then cut Ojha through covers for another boundary, in the next over.
Ojha stuck in the same over when he claimed the wicket of Gareth Hopkins, who was caught at second slip for seven.
McCullum, who sustained a back injury in the warm-up, hobbled into the middle and joined Ryder, who himself was struggling to run. Both players carried injuries from the previous match and therefore were not granted the comfort of a runner by the two umpires.
Ryder looked to attack the bowlers as he lofted Harbhajan back over his head for a boundary. The left-hander continued his good batting run against India as he completed his half-century 81 balls, in the 38th over.
In the same over, the struggling McCullum showed he had no lost his prowess despite the injury as he slammed Sreesanth through the covers for a four but immediately felt the sting in his back.
The right-hander decided to attack at every possible opportunity. He smashed a wide delivery from Ishant for a boundary through the point region as New Zealand reached 113 for six after 40 overs.
Ryder and McCullum looked to build the innings slowly and steadily before Harbhajan broke through. The off-spinner got his first wicket of the innings when he got Ryder caught in the covers after a good knock of 59 from 113 balls, laced with four boundaries.
New Zealand finally got a boundary after a long wait of nearly 12 overs when McCullum's edge off Harbhajan went in the gap between the wide slip and wicketkeeper.
The light faded fast as stumps were called with New Zealand on 148 for seven in 56 overs.
McCullum was unbeaten on a gritty 34 from 80 balls despite clearly struggling from his back injury, while Tim Southee was not out on seven.
India's bowlers never relented after the good start with the ball and kept chipping away at the wickets. Sreesanth took two wickets with the new ball but didn't bowl much for the rest of the day for two for 20 in nine overs, while Ishant made a good comeback with two for 32 in 13 overs.
Ojha kept plugging away and was rewarded with two for 49 in 19 overs, while Harbhajan took one for 42 in 15 overs.