Kolkata: India were struggling at 57/3 with New Zealand bowlers seizing the initiative on a lively Eden Gardens track in the pre-lunch session on Day 1 of the second Test here on Friday.
Cheteshwar Pujara, in the midst of a storm over his slow strike rate, was in the middle with a gritty 31 off 80 balls, and now needs to play the anchor's role to perfection to revive the Indian first innings. Giving him company was Ajinkya Rahane (2).
New Zealand, suffering a big jolt before the game with their skipper Kane Williamson ruled out of the game due to indisposition, bowled to a plan as their pacers, particularly Matt Henry, got carried from the wicket and repeatedly went tantalisingly close to finding the batsmen's outside edge. Both Henry and Trent Boult bowled to a plan, maintaining a line on or just outside the off stump.
India began on a wrong note after winning the toss losing both the openers by the first drinks interval.
Shikhar Dhawan (1), who made it to the playing eleven following the hamstring injury to Lokesh Rahul, departed as early as the second over, needlessly trying to cut a back of the length delivery from Henry and only managed an inside edge on to his stumps. The Delhi batsman scored only one.
Murali Vijay (9), who picked up a couple of boundaries - one of them of an elegant backfoot cover drive - got out to a beauty of an offering from Henry. The Kiwi kept one at a fuller length, inducing an edge from the Indian willower and Watling did the rest behind the stumps. The hosts were 28/2 in the 12th over.
Skipper Virat Kohli failed to break his Eden Gardens jinx in the longest format of the game after briefly raising the expectations of around eight thousand spectators with an out-of-the-world cover drive. The dashing batsman chased a ball wide outside the off stumps and finished in the hands of Tom Latham at gully. It was a brilliant catch as Latham virtually plucked the leather from thin air.
Kohli has now totalled 38 in four Test innings at the Eden, at a niggardly average of 9.50.
India seemed in a tight spot but Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane saw to it there was no more damage before the lunch break.
For New Zealand, Henry was the pick of the bowlers with figures of 6-2-14-2 in his only spell.
India made two changes from the team that played the first Test at Kanpur. Shikhar Dhawan replaced the injured Lokesh Rahul, while Bhuvneshwar Kumar made it to the final 11 in place of Umesh Yadav.
The visitors went with three changes. Henry Nicholls, Henry and Jeetan Patel are part of the team in place of Williamson, Mark Craig and Ish Sodhi. Ross Taylor is the stand-in captain.