Kolkata: Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja spun India to an unassailable 2-0 lead and the No.1 ranking in Tests, pinning New Zealand down in a riveting see-saw four-day affair, to win the second cricket Test by 178 runs here on Monday.
Local boy Wriddhiman Saha was adjudged Man of the Match for his unconquered 54 and 58 in the two Indian innings at the Eden Gardens.
Besides Saha, contributions with the bat by captain Virat Kohli (45) and Rohit Sharma (82) in the second innings helped India post 263 after a top-order collapse threatened to take the match away from them.
But despite the visitors’ grit early on in their 376-run chase, they fell to the guile of Indian tweakers once again — similar to the first Test at Kanpur that they lost by 197 runs — managing a meagre 197 in their seconds outing.
The tourists started their run chase well, riding on opener Tom Latham’s (74 not out; 144 balls, 8×4) ninth half-century and contributions from Martin Guptill (24) and Henry Nicolls (24) at the top order.
But post-lunch, the in-form Indian spinners ran through the Kiwi batting. Both Ashwin (3/82) and Jadeja (3/41) made mischief in tandem, joining in the party was the raw pace and swing of Mohammed Shami (3/46), who shaved off the lower order. Bhuvneshwar Kumar (1/28) claimed the remaining wicket.
Latham departed soon after tea, starting the slide. Ashwin’s mastery over his craft was on show as he floated an inviting delivery which forced the opener to drive away from his body giving a nick to wicketkeeper Saha.
Mitchell Santner (9) and B.J. Watling (1) followed suit in quick succession, Shami accounting for both the scalps.
Luke Ronchi (32; 60 balls, 4×4) fought briefly before Jadeja accounted for him, castling the 35-year old. Jeetan Patel (2) failed to replicate his first innings form, when he scored a gutsy 47, failing to comprehend the reverse swing generated from a good length ball by Buvneshwar.
Matt Henry (18) and Trent Boult (4) were cleaned up by Jadeja and Shami, respectively.
Earlier, India wrested back the second session from New Zealand as Ashwin and Jadeja took three wickets to deny the tourists any hope of a fightback at tea.
Latham staged a lone battle as top-order batsmen fell around him.
The hosts took 16 overs in the innings to get the first breakthrough. Ashwin pitched the ball fuller and it turned in from outside the off stump to catch Martin Guptill (24; 49 b, 3×4) off guard.
It was an important wicket just when the opening stand had started to look steady, engineering a partnership of 55 runs. The second-wicket stand between Latham and Henry Nicolls (24) was of 49 runs, helping the Kiwis reach 104 when Nicolls fell.
With the wicket offering a lot of turn, Jadeja made the most of it. Changing his angle to outfox Nicolls, who failed to come fully forward to cover the turn, the left-arm tweaker got the outside edge of Nicolls’ bat with Rahane taking the catch at first slip.
Ross Taylor, who is standing in for indisposed captain Kane Williamson, lasted only 26 minutes in which the right-hander scored just eight runs before falling to Ashwin’s guile, dismissed leg before wicket. Taylor played the wrong line leaving umpire Richard Kettleborough with an easy decision to make as the ball hit Taylor’s front pad.
Earlier, resuming at 227 for eight, India were all out for 263 in their second innings.
Wriddhiman Saha, who had run out of partners in the first innings after scoring 54, once again anchored the lower order, remaining not out at 58 (120 balls, 6×4) — his fourth Test half century.
The two overnight batsmen, Saha and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (23; 51 balls, 2×4, 1×6) were involved in a 56-run partnership that helped India cross the 250-mark and set New Zealand a target which no team has ever achieved in the fourth innings at the famed ground.
The stand was broken in the 10th over of the morning session when Bhuvneshwar misjudged the bounce of Neil Wagner’s delivery and offered an easy catch to short leg. It was Wagner’s 99th wicket in 25 Tests.