On the third day of the first Test, Axar Patel extended his golden run in advantageous home conditions, claiming another five-wicket haul to put India in the driving seat after New Zealand were bowled out for 296 despite a 151-run opening stand. When he eventually found the right pace and turned off the surface, the left-arm spinner had a couple of dream sessions, severely derailing New Zealand’s steady first innings. As India built a critical 49-run first-inning advantage, which grew to 63 at stumps, his final stats were 34-6-62-5.

Ravichandran Ashwin was also accurate, bowling 42.3 overs for 3 for 82 and moving closer to becoming India’s third-highest wicket-taker in Test cricket. Gujarat’s Axar has been outstanding since debuting in India’s whites at the start of the year, taking 32 wickets in just three and a half Tests. He had four five-fors in the three Tests against England, thus this was his fifth. However, he would treasure this one even more because the track was not as treacherous as those in the England series (second Test in Chennai and the Pink Test in Ahmedabad).

After losing Shubman Gill (1) for the second time to Kyle Jamieson, who again found a wide hole between his bat and pad, the hosts were 14 for 1 at stumps. New Zealand’s chances of fighting it out in the fourth innings would be slim unless skipper Kane Williamson plays one of his solid efforts. However, he only managed 18 on the day, and when Umesh Yadav’s in-cutter brought him down at the stroke of noon, the wheels of destiny shifted in India’s favour. This was after openers Will Young (89 off 214 balls) and Tom Latham (95 off 282 balls) combined 151 for the opening stand but both, despite their dogged display, missed out on hundreds.

Just before lunch, Umesh (1/50 in 18 overs) bowled a fresh ball on an off-stump that cut back enough to locate Williamson’s pads. India dominated the next two sessions, taking eight wickets for just 99 runs. When compared to the second evening, Axar’s perseverance paid off as he modified his line from leg-middle to off-middle and released at a faster speed.

Within 13 runs, he removed Ross Taylor (11), Henry Nicholls (2), and Latham, utterly disrupting the Black Caps’ rhythm. Axar eventually delivered a classic left-arm spinner’s delivery in the post-lunch session, delivery with a bit of air and pitched on length drew Taylor forward and then turned enough to take an outside edge that went to KS Bharat, the substitute keeper. After regular stumper Wriddhiman Saha complained of a stiff neck, Bharat was called in. Nicholls also attempted sweeping a much fuller delivery, but it turned in and he was caught leg first.