Spirited fightback by Kiwis
Jesse Ryder marked his return to Test cricket with a defiant century as New Zealand staged a spirited fightback to keep themselves afloat in the first Test against India in Ahmedabad on Saturday.
The burly Ryder scored 103 before being dismissed in the last over while debutant Kane Williamson scored an unbeaten 87 as the Kiwis clawed their way into the game to reach a comfortable 331 for five at close on the third day, still trailing the hosts by 156 runs.
The visitors were struggling at 137 for four at one stage with the dismissals of Brendon McCullum (65) and Ross Taylor (56) in quick succession but Ryder and Williamson put on a record 194-run fifth wicket partnership to frustrate the Indians.
Image: Jesse Ryder celebrates after completing his century
McCullum, Taylor star on a positive note
In the morning, both the overnight batsmen McCullum (65) and Taylor (56) started confidently and completed their half-centuries before gifting their wickets to the hosts.
McCullum and Taylor negotiated the Indian pacers and spinners well for about 17 overs in the morning session before Harbhajan Singh broke the 104-run third-wicket stand.
Taylor cut one off Harbhajan for a boundary to notch his fifty and raise the 100-run partnership with McCullum.
Meanwhile, McCullum drove Sreesanth for a four to complete his 17th Test fifty.
Image: Brendon McCullum plays a leg glance
Kiwis lose quick wickets
However, the visitors lost two quick wickets as the Indian spinners looked to take control of the match.
Taylor played an uppish drive off Harbhajan towards short mid-wicket, where VVS Laxman took a simple catch.
Indian spinners took time to get their rhythm but then started to trouble the Kiwi batsmen. One such delivery by Pragyan Ojha dismissed McCullum, who played some aggressive shots in the opening session.
Ojha deceived McCullum's forward defense with a spinning ball and in the process the New Zealander dragged his back-foot out of crease, an opportunity India skipper M S Dhoni encashed by taking off the bails in a flash.
Image: Brendon McCullum is stumped by MS Dhoni
Ryder, Williamson steady the innings
The 26-year-old Ryder, playing a Test match after a gap of 14 months, completed his third Test ton in the last over of the day with a fluent drive through covers but perished in the same offer with Sreesanth trapping his leg before wicket.
The New Zealanders not only managed to avoid the follow on but also put themselves on course for matching India's first innings total on a Sardar Patel track which offered little assistance to the bowlers.
It turned out to be a disapointing day for the Indians who could manage to take just take three wickets in the three sessions to allow the Kiwis to bounce back to a great extent.
Rahul Dravid grassed a simple catch at first slip early when Ryder was on 11 to compound India's misery.
It was a valiant fightback by Ryder and Williamson who showed great temperament and composure to keep the Indian bowlers at bay and steer their team to a relatively safer position.
With two days left in the match, the Indians will now have ensure an early end to New Zealand's first inninings if they want to push for a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
Image: Jesse Ryder celebrates with Kane Williamson after reaching his century