Virender Sehwag [ Images ] fell four short of a well-deserved century but ensured India [ Images ] a remarkable start to their first innings on day two of the second Test against New Zealand [ Images ] at Uppal on Saturday.
At stumps (after 49 overs), the home team had made 178 for two, still 172 runs adrift of the New Zealand first innings total.
Sehwag made a blitzkrieg 96 before a flighted delivery from Vettori cleaned up his stumps.
His opening partner, Gautam Gambhir [ Images ], back among runs after a considerable period of time, followed him back to the pavilion in the next over. Southee had him caught behind to bring New Zealand back into the game.
Gambhir's 54 was a comeback innings. In fact, it was the left-hander's first significant contribution since January this year.
The duo survived a few anxious moments early on but eventually settled down well to put together a valuable 160-run partnership for the opening wicket - their eighth 100-plus stand first up.
And though they fell in quick succession they had done enough to ensure the New Zealand think tank has a lot to worry about on the third day.
For the record, when on 169, India became the first team in the world with a cumulative aggregate of 50, 000 Test runs. And more than half of that belonged to just two players: Tendulkar and Dravid.
Earlier, the New Zealand innings folded up soon after lunch. The visitors made 350, having batted for 117.3 overs.
The morning session belonged completely to the home side, with six wickets falling for the addition of just 83 runs to the New Zealand total.
Zaheer Khan gave India two early breakthroughs on day two, getting both his victims out leg before. Then Harbhajan Singh took over.
The duo finished four wickets apiece to make quick work of the Kiwi tail. Jesse Ryder [ Images ] (70) scored an aggressive half century but failed to revive New Zealand's fortunes.
Morning session: (83 runs, 23 overs, 5 wickets)
Ryder started the day on a bright note, glancing Zaheer's third ball fine to the fence and then smashing Sreesanth [ Images ] through extra cover for his second boundary of the day. Hopkins followed suit in the bowlers next over, hitting a full length delivery through the midwicket for his first runs.
However, three balls later Zaheer struck. The left-arm seamer trapped Gareth Hopkins (4) plumb in front.
Motera centurion Kane Williamson (4) survived a loud leg before appeal in Zaheer's next over.
However, he was not as lucky in the bowler's next over, Zaheer's ploy of bowling round the wicket to the right-hander earning him his second wicket of the day (fourth of the match).
The move backfired though.
Ryder continued being aggressive, a boundary over backward point off Sreesanth helping him reach his fifth Test fifty, his first against India - against whom he has three century-plus scores.
Captain Daniel Vettori [ Images ] (11) survived a loud leg before shout off Harbhajan, replays however, suggested their was a big inside edge.
However, a couple of balls later he wasn't as fortunate.
It was Harbhajan's first wicket of the match after a disappointing show on the opening day.
His second was a significant one. The off-spinner induced an outside edge of Ryder's blade and VVS Laxman [ Images ] made no mistakes at first slip.
Ryder's 120-ball 70 was inclusive of 10 hits to the fence and was a decent follow up to his magnificent 103 in the opening Test at Motera.
Tim Southee [ Images ] (10) was dropped by Gambhir at short leg in Harbhajan's next over. The let-off didn't prove costly though, with the offie having his man stumped in the very next ball.
After 113 overs (at lunch), the visitors were struggling at 341 for nine.
New Zealand innings: (9 runs, 4.3 overs, 1 wicket)
It was a matter of time when the New Zealand innings folds up.
Soon after lunch, Chris Martin (3) was snapped up by Sehwag at leg slip off Harbhajan.
Brent Arnel remained unbeaten on six.
Earlier, electing to bat New Zealand had made 258 for four in 90 overs at stumps on the opening day with Jesse Ryder on 22 from 64 balls and Gareth Hopkins yet to open his account.
India innings: (62 runs, 18 overs, 0 wicket)
India got off to a tentative start in their first innings. Both the New Zealand seamers, Chris Martin and Tim Southee bowled very well early on.
The out-of-form Gautam Gambhir could have been out in the second over had his edge off Southee not gone over the first slip (Taylor). The left-hander survived a leg before appeal in Southee's second over. However, the replays suggested there was an inside edge in the second case.
His lack of confidence though clearly showed, with him struggling early on in his innings.
Sehwag, on the other hand, too witnessed a few deliveries whiz past him. Just 13 runs came off the first seven overs.
However, to keep Sehwag tied down for long is an arduous ask and the open broke free soon enough, with a boundary though cover off Southee.
Then the swashbuckling opener went after Martin, getting three boundaries off the New Zealand spearhead.
The result, India moving from 13 for no loss after seven overs to 43 without loss after 12.
Sehwag (29) and Gambhir (28) survived a few anxious moments early on but managed to hold fort in the second session to set up an exciting final session. It was Gambhir's highest score in his last 11 innings.
After 18 overs (at tea), the home team had made 62 without loss.
Post-tea session: (116 runs, 31 overs, 2 wickets)
The final session of the day's play witnessed Sehwag hitting a couple of boundaries off Arnel. Gambhir joined the party cutting Vettori past point for his fifth boundary, without doubt the most confident shot of his innings till that point.
And it was smooth sailing from then on.
Sehwag smashed Vettori to the midwicket fence to reach 49. He then reached his 24th Test fifty with a single to sweeper cover and celebrated the same with a couple of boundaries in Vettori's next over.
However, it was in part-timer Williamson's second over that Sehwag displayed his true class - batting the way the world wants to see him bat.
Gambhir started what was India's best over of the day with a boundary through covers. Then Sehwag took over, hitting his first maximum of the innings straight over the bowler's head and following it up with an inside out shot that raced its way to the long-off boundary.
The over cost New Zealand 15 runs and Williamson was immediately taken off the attack.
The trademark blitzkrieg had ensured Sehwag moved from two from 23 balls at one stage to 73 off 87, i.e., 71 runs off 64 balls.
Gambhir, meanwhile reached his 12th Test fifty, his first in his last 10 innings and thereby ended his woeful run of low scores with the bat. The left-hander reached the landmark by guiding a Southee delivery to the third man boundary.
However, Sehwag missed out on what would have been 23rd Test ton, Vettori crashing through his defence.
Sehwag's 120-ball 96 was inclusive of 15 hits to the fence and one over it.
Gambhir followed his opening partner in the next over. His 129-ball 54 was inclusive of seven hits to the fence.
Dravid and Tendulkar ensured there was no further damage and India had a perfect chance to consolidate come day three.