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Latham and Guptill started the big chase on a confident note with a fifty-run opening stand Getty Images

Of late, there has been a pattern followed by the Indian cricket team in Test cricket. They bat long and long, post a good enough total but avoid to declare their innings. It can be fairly said that this trend has emerged under Virat Kohli s leadership. India did the same in their last Test series in the Caribbean against the West Indies. They have done so in the current series against New Zealand too. But in a five-day game, more so in the game of cricket, whether weather plays such a crucial role, such actions can have their implications too.

Nevertheless, in their second innings of the second Test at Kolkata, the hosts did the same. Ending the day two at 8 for 227, they had a substantial, or rather match-winning lead of 339 runs. Mind you, New Zealand have never chased this total in their fourth innings. Furthermore, this big a total has never been chased at the Eden Gardens. Sane minds would have expected Team India to declare at the start of day three but Kohli had other plans. Wriddhiman Saha and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the two overnight batsmen for the team, resumed playing on day four. The duo, who had added 12 runs yesterday for the ninth wicket, added 24 more runs on the fourth day.

With the uneven bounce testing the batsmen, the two began cautiously, with no signs of aggression or early declaration. Saha, who had an unbeaten fifty in the first innings, brought in his second fifty in the game. If the knock in the first innings gave him a chance to flaunt his range of strokes as it was an attacking one, the second one was pure class. The local boy rose to the occasion and showed just why he is the apt replacement to fill in the big shoes of MS Dhoni in Test cricket and also why he is better than the others in domestic cricket by some distance.

He showed no signs of nerves on his home ground and even proved his critics, who often say he is an overrated cricketer, wrong. Both his fifties in the match may appear contrasting in nature, but hold huge significance in the context of the contest. In both the innings, he walked out to bat at No. 8 with the team not being in the best of the positions. India were 6 for 200 in the first innings and 6 for 106 in the second, precarious situations both. But Saha showed enough maturity to bail the team out on both the occasions. It is never easy to bat behind a specialist bowler in the batting order, but Saha seems to have no qualms and looks like he is relishing his chances.

It was only apt that he went unconquered in both the innings. Bhuvneshwar was the first man to be dismissed in the morning, when he was surprised by a short ball angled in at his body and ended up giving a simple catch at short leg. Bhuvi scored 23 and added 36 runs with Saha for the ninth wicket. Mohammed Shami did not last long, but held on for enough long to let Saha reach to his milestone. He was finally dismissed for 1 by Trent Boult with the score reading 263 all out. India managed a 375 run lead, good enough to bundle out New Zealand in well over five sessions. Boult, Neil Wagner and Matt Henry shared 7 wickets amongst them while Mitchell Santner, who produced a couple of unplayable deliveries this morning, took 3 wickets.

Mission impossible?

New Zealand started their second innings on a cautious note. They knew they had an insurmountable task in front of them. While spin had been their nemesis in the first Test, it was the threat of Indian pacers that was looming over their head this time around. If spinners had a gala time in Kanpur, Kolkata had been all about pace. The fact that of the 30 wickets to fall in first three innings of the match, 22 were taken by pacers underlines the previous statement. Bhuvneshwar, who had a fifer in the first innings, and Shami started well and kept probing the Kiwi opening duo of Martin Guptill and Tom Latham.

Guptill, in particular, was under tremendous pressure. The commentators sitting in the box were discussing whether he was playing for his career. With a string of poor scores behind him, it was an important opportunity for him. And he has done well so far, surviving some tough times while facing Shami in particular. Shami beat his outside edge and had a huge shout for an lbw on one occasion. But Guptill went on. Latham has looked more composed of the two, easily. He showed some good footwork once Ravichandran Ashwin was into operation, playing the spin well.

New Zealand have started the big chase on a confident note. Interestingly, this is the highest opening stand for New Zealand involving Guptill in Tests in the Indian subcontinent. The previous highest was 45 against Sri Lanka at Galle, 2009, which came in his very first innings in Asia.

The Kiwis have a herculean task in hand. Though they have put up an unbeaten fifty run stand, they still have to play out five more sessions in the match. They don t have the services of their best batsman, captain Kane Williamson in this game, and this makes the task all the more difficult. Latham and Guptill will have to dig in deep and score big. The job is just half done. With the day four progressing, the spin too will come into picture, and that will make things more difficult.

Brief Scores:

India 316 (Cheteshwar Pujara 87, Ajinkya Rahane 77, Wriddhiman Saha 54*; Matt Henry 3 for 46, Trent Boult 2 for 46) & 263 (Virat Kohli 45, Rohit Sharma 82, Wriddhiman Saha 58*; Trent Boult 3 for 38, Matt Henry 3 for 59, Mitchell Santner 3 for 60) lead New Zealand 55 for no loss (Tom Latham 31*, Martin Guptill 24*; Bhuvneshwar Kumar 0 for 12) & 204 (Jeetan Patel 47; Bhuvneshwar Kumar 5 for 33, Mohammed Shami 3 for 70) by 321 runs.

Full Scorecard

(A self-confessed cricket freak, Chinmay Jawalekar is a senior writer with CricketCountry. When not writing or following cricket, he loves to read, eat and sleep. He can be followed here @CricfreakTweets)