Ishant Sharma's relentless spells throughout day 2 at the Basin Reserve in Wellington kept India alive in the contest after the visitors lost five wickets for just 43 runs in the first hour of the day. However, Kane Williamson's gritty 89, the only half-century score in the opening Test so far, helped New Zealand crawl past 165 with a slender 51-run lead after losing five wickets.
India started day 2 at 122 for five with Ajinkya Rahane holding the key for the visitors in believing a respectable first-innings total after a top-order failure. But Rahane got Rishabh Pant run-out before Tim Southee struck twice to expose the tail end. And right after the hour mark on the second morning, India were bundled for just 165 - their second-lowest total since their 108 at Lord's against England in 2018.
New Zealand started strong denying India any wicket before lunch, but Ishant struck thrice to inspire a late comeback for India. New Zealand, however, nudged ahead riding on the half-century from the skipper and 44 from Ross Taylor although 216 for five on the scoreboard still seems below-par for a team batting second in Wellington if looked at the past eight second-innings totals. With four 500-plus scores and none below 350, the average score since 2014 stands as 473. And the average lead in the seven matches where the team batting second have managed, stands 250.57.
India, under the captaincy of Virat Kohli, do not have a very strong record after conceding a first-innings lead. On 14 occasions, India have managed to win just twice while losing eight of them and remaining four ending in a draw.
The last time they won a game after conceding a first-innings lead was back in 2018 in Johannesburg when Kohli's India was bundled out for 187 before South Africa took a narrow seven-run lead. Kohli and Rahane's gritty fifth-wicket stand in the second innings before Mohammed Shami's impressive fi-fer helped India beat South Africa by 63 runs.
What stands so far in favour of India is that Basin Reserve did not behave like a typical New Zealand pitch on day 2. Even deep into the day, there was some bounce off the track and offered turn as well. Ishant will be key for India on day 3 while Ravichandran Ashwin might be used more often to milk opportunities owing to the turn and restrict New Zealand's lead.