Irresponsible batting by their much-vaunted line-up left India with the gigantic task of saving the second Test against New Zealand on Saturday.
At the end of Day 3, the tourists, following-on after being dismissed for 305, were 47 for 1 in their second innings, still 267 runs behind the Kiwis.
Resuming at 79 for 3, India’s hopes of batting their way into the match depended largely on Sachin Tendulkar (49), Rahul Dravid (83) and VVS Laxman (76) but none of these stalwarts could hang around long enough as the innings folded in 93.5 overs.
With a healthy 314-run first innings lead and a hungry pace battery operating with the new ball at his disposal, New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori had little hesitation in inflicting the follow-on.
India soon found themselves deeper in the hole when they lost stand-in captain Virender Sehwag out leg before to Jetan Patel for 22.
Gautam Gambhir (14) and Rahul Dravid (11) were in the middle at stumps.
With two full days left, India’s chances of winning the match and sealing the series in Napier itself lay in tatters, while New Zealand stayed firmly on course to restore parity in the three-match series.
India’s fallibility against the moving ball came to the fore again as New Zealand rode on a five-wicket burst by Chris Martin (3/89) and Iain O’Brien (2/66).
The second new ball sounded the death knell as Yuvraj Singh (0), Dinesh Karthik (6), Laxman, Harbhajan Singh (18) and Zaheer Khan (8) fell in a heap, the visitors losing their last five wickets in 62 balls.
The startling Indian exodus could possibly be blamed on Dravid, who though made an imperious 83.
India had just recovered from Tendulkar’s dismissal and sauntered to 246 for four when Dravid chased a wide delivery from Jesse Ryder and was caught behind the wicket by Brendon McCullum.
Vettori soon summoned the new ball, which the Indian lower half failed to counter.
Laxman, who notched his 38th Test half century, was the tourists’ last hope, but he too flashed at a Martin delivery that left him late and was snared at second slip by Tim McIntosh.
Earlier, resuming at the overnight score of 79 for three, Dravid and Tendulkar met the cherry with the meat of their bat. Their elegance at the crease and crisp stroke play belied what was to come in the latter part of the day.
The Mumbaikar was on top of his game, executing some exquisite strokes on the up, a couple of square drives coming straight out of the Tendulkar stable. He had asserted himself at the square by taking 14 runs, including a six over mid-wicket, off Patel but paid the price when he tried to work the off-spinner to third man, the ball flying to Ross Taylor at first slip. His 49 was interspersed with seven other hits to the fence.
India were still unperturbed as long as Dravid and Laxman were at the crease, even harboring hopes of a great resurgence like the ones these accomplished batsmen orchestrated against Australia at Kolkata (2001) and Adelaide (2003). But the moment ‘The Wall’ collapsed, the door was left open for the Kiwis.
Martin was sharp and accurate, finding the outside of Yuvraj, Karthik and Laxman’s blades to take his Test tally to 152 wickets in his 47th match. O’Brien picked up the scalps of Harbhajan and Zaheer to hasten the Indians to their doom.