Images from Day 3 of the first Test between India and New Zealand, at Green Park, Kanpur, on Saturday.
Axar Patel continued his golden run with the ball in favourable home conditions with another five-wicket haul to put India in the driver's seat after New Zealand were bowled out for 296 despite an opening stand of 151, on Day 3 of the first Test, at Green Park in Kanpur, on Saturday.
The left-arm spinner had a couple of dream sessions as he finally found the ideal pace and turn off the surface to completely derail New Zealand's steady first innings.
His final figures read 34-6-62-5 as India got a crucial 49-run first innings lead, which increased to 63 by stumps.
Ravichandran Ashwin was also on the money as he bowled 42.3 overs to finish with 3 wickets for 82 runs, inching closer to becoming the third highest Indian wicket-taker in Test cricket.
Axar has been terrific since he donned India whites at the start of the year. Now he has as many as 32 wickets in just three-and-a-half Tests. Saturday’s five-for was his fifth, having already got four in the three Tests against England.
However, he will cherish this one a bit more considering that the track was not as diabolical as the ones in the England series (second Test in Chennai and the Pink Test in Ahmedabad).
At stumps, the hosts were 14 for 1 after losing Shubman Gill (1) for the second time to Kyle Jamieson, who again found a gaping hole between his bat and pad.
With the deliveries keeping wickedly low, New Zealand's chances of fighting it out in the fourth innings will be pretty low unless skipper Kane Williamson produces one of his steady knocks. His proved to be the turning point as New Zealand lost nine wickets for 99 runs from that stage in the first innings.
Tom Latham (95) was the top-scorer for New Zealand while his opening partner Will Young scored 89.
Resuming the day at 129 for no loss, New Zealand couldn't build any partnership as Patel rocked the visitors with three wickets in the post-lunch session.
Kyle Jamieson scored 23 down the batting order.
Earlier, fast bowler Umesh Yadav provided India a huge boost by dismissing Kane Williamson cheaply, as New Zealand went to lunch on 197 for 2 in their first innings.
The second new ball did the trick as Umesh pitched one in line of off-stump, which cut back enough to find Williamson's pads just when he was showing signs of settling down, having got to 18 off 64 balls.
New Zealand scored 68 runs in that session and are now 148 runs behind India's first innings total of 345.
Opener Will Young (89 off 214 balls) missed out on what would have been his maiden Test century, as Ravichandran Ashwin (28-7-57-1) gave India the much-needed breakthrough.
Young's senior partner Tom Latham hardly had any lapse in concentration during those first two hours and was undefeated on 82 at the break, having faced 239 balls and hitting 10 boundaries.
Williamson looked a bit shaky at the onset before hitting Ravindra Jadeja (20-6-44-0) for a couple of boundaries to ease his nerves.
The pitch on the third day hardly changed its character and it actually became a problem for India's left-arm spinners Jadeja and Axar Patel (14-2-33-0), who need a bit of assistance from the track to trouble the batters.
The only Indian bowler who looked penetrative was Ashwin, who finally got Young to edge one into the hands of substitute wicketkeeper Srikar Bharat, who came in for Wriddhiman Saha. The senior ‘keeper did not take the field at the start of Day 3 due to a stiff neck.
For a change, unlike Latham, Young's appeal for a DRS review came a cropper but not before he had added 151 runs to the opening stand.
Young had 15 fours in his career-best knock, but it was Latham, who actually carried on from where he had left on Friday evening, continuing to defend well on the front-foot and punishing any loose balls available.
He charged down the track and also lofted Axar over mid-on for a boundary and made a rasping square cut off Umesh (11.3-3-30-1) to get into the eighties.
During the session, Ashwin was involved in an animated discussion with the straight umpire, Nitin Menon, after he decided to go around the wicket against Williamson and was seen walking on the dangerous area on his follow-through.
The intention was to create a few roughs with his bowling spikes in the region, where, if the ball lands, as it would get turn away from the dogged Latham.
Umpire Menon, having understood the motive, had a word with Ashwin and skipper Ajinkya Rahane.
Left-arm spinner Axar Patel rocked New Zealand’s middle-order in the post-lunch session with three quick wickets as India made a strong comeback to restrict the visitors to 249 for 6 at tea.
While Umesh Yadav (16-3-41-1) should be credited for bringing India back into the contest with the wicket of Kane Williamson (18) at the stroke of lunch, a rejuvenated Axar (24-4-46-3) turned the contest around by removing Ross Taylor (11), Henry Nicholls (2) and opener Tom Lathan (95 off 282 balls) in the space of 13 runs to completely upset New Zealand’s rhythm.
Ravindra Jadeja (26-8-48-1) then got into the act. He breached through rookie Rachin Ravindra’s defence and suddenly the Kiwis were reduced to 241 for 6 from a comfortable 197 for 1.
Indeed, the second session belonged to India, as they got four wickets for just 52 runs.
Tom Blundell was unbeaten on 10 off 73 balls at the tea break.
India will be happy with a first innings lead of anything in the range between 50 to 60 runs considering the pitch isn't still very conducive for rolling over the opposition.
It the post-lunch session, Axar finally sent down a classical left-arm spinner's delivery. It had a bit of air and pitched on length, drawing Taylor forward and turning enough to take an outside edge into substitute ‘keeper K S Bharat's gloves.
Nicholls also tried sweeping a fuller delivery that turned back in and he was trapped leg before wicket.
Then, having understood that on a slower track like this one the pace off the pitch needs to increase, Axar gave the delivery a tweak at decent clip and Latham, who was looking for for a hundred, was beaten all ends up and out for 95.
The ball went off the batter's gloves and bounced before reaching wicketkeeper Bharat, who stayed calm as he pouched it and whipped off the bails.