Ravichandran Ashwin (R) celebrates with teammate Cheteshwar Pujara I AFP
Kanpur: Senior off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin on Monday became India's third highest wicket-taker in Test cricket as New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson stood between hosts and victory, taking his team to 125 for 4 at tea on the final day of the series opener.
New Zealand now need 159 runs to win in 31.5 overs but Williamson (24 batting 97 balls) will be looking at a draw which will be creditable enough for the Black Caps, as they go into final session with six wickets in hand.
If the first session completely belonged to New Zealand who didn't lose a single wicket, the second session certainly belonged to India as Umesh Yadav (1/3in 12 overs) removed night-watchman Will Somerville (36 off 110 balls) with a short ball immediately after post-lunch resumption.
It was Shubman Gill who took a fine catch diving forward at long leg boundary.
Williamson looked way more confident that his first innings effort as he hit a cover drive off Ishant Sharma (0/20 in 7 overs), who was completely off-colour on the day.
Ross Taylor (2) never looked comfortable and at stroke of tea, Ravindra Jadeja (1/21 in 11.1 overs) finally bowled one that had his number.
Tom Latham (52 off 146 balls) scored another half-century before Ashwin's (20-6-28-2) delivery kept low and he dragged one onto the stumps.
With that scalp, Ashwin in his 80th Test, crossed Harbhajan Singh (417 in 103 games) to become the third highest wicket-taker for India in the five-day format.
"I would like to congratulate Ashwin on his milestone. Well done and hope he wins many more matches for India," Harbhajan told PTI.
"I never believed in comparisons. We played our best cricket in different times, against different opposition. I had done my best for the country back then and ditto for Ashwin, he did his best now," the former India spinner said.
In the morning, Somerville displayed a lot of character defying the Indian bowling attack alongside senior opener Latham as they added 76 runs.
One Jadeja delivery turned back sharply into Latham after being pitched on the rough created outside the off-stump by bowler's footmarks. India took a DRS but replay showed that it didn't pitch in line.
Otherwise the duo wasn't really perturbed by the Indian spinners, who found it difficult to create too many chances.
It also didn't help that two fast bowlers Ishant and Umesh bowled in complete contrast to what their Kiwi counterparts Tim Southee and Kyle Jamieson did on this very pitch.
Just like he looked in England, Ishant's run-up was again gingerly and not for once during the morning spell did he look in rhythm.
He and Umesh tried the short-ball tactic to the unfancied Somerville but he swayed and ducked without any discomfort and also played the rising delivery with soft hands. PTI