India stuttered against a New Zealand bowling onslaught on the third day of the second test in Kolkata but, at 227 for eight by stumps, had built what looked an insurmountable lead of 339.

Their position was not always so convincing. The hosts crumbled to 106-6 in the last over before tea as the visitors fought back.

However, a 103-run seventh-wicket stand between Rohit Sharma (82) and Wriddhiman Saha (39 not out) meant a cricketing miracle is required for New Zealand to draw or win the test, given the top order's present vulnerability.

To give that context, the highest successful fourth innings chase in 40 matches and 82 years of tests at the ground is India's 120-2 to defeat South Africa in 2004.


Matt Henry and Trent Boult left India flailing at 46 for four with a nine-over blitz after lunch. Virat Kohli and Sharma added 45 for the fifth wicket to advance the lead beyond 200. Two further wickets meant New Zealand had earned the right to dream about a comeback until attrition took its toll in the Eden Gardens furnace.

Boult finished with two wickets for 28, while Henry and Mitchell Santner each delivered figures of three for 43.

The middle session brimmed with drama. An absence of the Decision Review System cost India the wickets of Cheteshwar Pujara and Kohli through dubious lbw calls. A Boult delivery floored Kohli, hitting him outside the line of off stump. He raised his head on bended knee as umpire Richard Kettleborough raised his finger but, as Kohli stressed pre-test, no DRS means no complaints about decisions.

Speaking of complaints, New Zealand captain Ross Taylor might have a dissent case to answer before the match referee. Umpire Rod Tucker correctly denied an earlier Boult appeal against Kohli which pitched outside leg stump. Replays showed Taylor offering a fervent opinion on the matter in Tucker's general direction.

India's initial struggles underlined the quality of the repair by Jeetan Patel and B-J Watling in the first session with their 60-run eighth-wicket partnership taking the visitors' to 204.

Patel was a revelation, considering the circumstances in which he last batted in 2013, cowering against South Africa's pace bowling venom.

He passed his previous highest test score of 27 by caressing a drive to the left of cover. He eased to 47, before miscuing a lofted drive off Ravi Ashwin. Mohammed Shami strolled to the catch from mid-on.

Patel placated the pitch on his way to nine boundaries, including five driven through the offside.

Cricket is a sport where surprise lurks regularly, but the odds of Patel being New Zealand's top first innings scorer would have been on a par with snow falling in Kolkata this week. One back foot cover drive off Jadeja was hit so nonchalantly, you wondered whether New Zealand had employed a body double.

Adding to the drama was the fact Patel enjoyed two lives. Jadeja struck him on the back pad for a plumb lbw, but the No.9 was recalled upon confirmation of a no-ball.

Watling batted in Patel's shadow but showed the faith and composure which makes him the ideal candidate to nurse the tail. He played Jadeja with due diligence, smothering his left-arm orthodox interrogation like he was playing one-hand, one-bounce. His grimace was understandable when he misjudged a Shami in-swinger and had his back pad all but riveted to the stumps on 25.

Both batsmen left the ball with positive intent, using GPS-like judgment as to the location of their off stumps. It raised an inevitable question which will be relevant today: can the same application occur further up the order?