The sun was out but wickets — 17 of them in all — tumbled on a frenetic Saturday at the Eden Park.
The game witnessed a Hitchcockian twist on an all-action day three of the first Test.
Ahead by 301 runs in the first innings, New Zealand was shot out for 105 in its second essay.
The Indian seamers — Mohammed Shami, Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma — altered their length and hunted as a pack.
The host, too eager to force the issue after deciding not to enforce the follow-on, suffered a shocking collapse.
Outplayed till that point and conceding a massive lead of 301, India, pursuing 407 for victory, was 87 for one at stumps.
The surface continued to offer bounce and a measure of movement to the pacemen and, at the day’s fag end, there was some assistance for young leg-spinner Ish Sodhi.
Opener Shikhar Dhawan was fortunate to be reprieved on seven by a diving Brendon McCullum at short cover; the opener had failed to keep an uppish drive off Tim Southee down.
The left-hander grew in confidence, on-driving and forcing one through covers. Dhawan (49 batting) and a resolute Cheteshwar Pujara (22 batting) were together at stumps.
Earlier, Murali Vijay nicked one down the leg-side off Southee. Unlike in the first innings, the Indian seamers hit the right areas. They either pitched the ball up to swing it or landed the sphere on a length aiming for the top of off-stump.
They plugged the flow of runs — the short ball was only occasionally used — built pressure and sliced through the line-up.
Mohammed Shami operated with speed, movement and controlled hostility. A skiddy bowler, his nip off the surface can baffle batsmen.
He removed struggling openers Hamish Rutherford and Peter Fulton in quick time. Yet, the manner in which Shami angled a delivery across left-hander Corey Anderson — the sphere kissed the top of middle and off — from round the wicket underlined his skill.
Jadeja’s catching and fielding — he is a livewire on the arena — were critical in two key dismissals.
The in-form Kane Williamson, attempting to turn Zaheer off his hips, was spectacularly picked by Jadeja at short mid-wicket. And first innings hero Brendon McCullum, put down at first slip by Vijay off the crafty Zaheer, succumbed to a marvellous Jadeja pick-up and throw from deep mid-wicket to Ishant at the non-striker’s end.
This was a day when the quality of catching lifted the bowling. Ross Taylor (41) was finding his feet after a tentative start when he was brilliantly held by Ajinkya Rahane at gully after cutting Zaheer hard.
India kept picking wickets to the delight of a small but noisy bunch of its supporters.
Ishant, bowling with intensity, castled wicket-keeper batsman Bradley-John Watling with an off-cutter from just short of a good length.
He then blew away the tail. In the morning, the Indian batsmen lacked belief.
The side needed to survive the first hour without conceding wickets. It didn’t.
Rahane was sucked into a fatal push outside off by Southee’s swing. Then, Rohit Sharma’s impressive innings (72) ended in a tame fashion when he played on to a delivery travelling across him by Trent Boult.
The contrasting angles of swing from left-armer Boult and Southee’s right-arm variety once again hurt India.
There has been some debate here about Wagner’s continued presence in the side. But for McCullum, this spirited left-arm seamer is the battering ram. He runs in hard, gives everything he has and can hustle batsmen with short-pitched deliveries directed into the body from both over and round the wicket.
Wagner is not quick but brisk enough to hit the bat hard. The left-armer removed Dhoni with a peach of a delivery that straightened and squared up the Indian skipper.
Jadeja essayed some lusty blows but Wagner fired out the tail; Wagner’s role definition in the team is clear — attack the batsmen even if this meant conceding runs.
New Zealand still has the edge but by not going for the kill by enforcing the follow-on and then failing to bat India out of the match, it has given Dhoni’s men a lifeline.