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Cricket-Ashwin strikes early after India set New Zealand 540-run target

MUMBAI — India off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin struck early after the hosts set New Zealand an improbable target of 540 to win the second and final test on the third day of the contest on Sunday at the Wankhede Stadium.

Ashwin dismissed stand-in captain Tom Latham leg before wicket for six before the tea interval to reduce New Zealand to 13 for one. Will Young was unbeaten on seven at the break.

The hosts declared their second innings closed on 276 for seven after scoring brisk runs in the day’s second session.

On a track offering plenty of assistance for the spinners, a series-clinching win could be just matter of time for the hosts with the reigning world test champions managing just 62 in their first innings in reply to India’s 325.

India would hope their bowlers have enough time left in the contest to dismiss New Zealand after the opening test in Kanpur ended in a thrilling draw, with the touring side’s last batting pair hanging on in the final session.

A day after becoming only the third bowler to pick up all 10 wickets in an innings, the Mumbai-born Ajaz Patel picked up four more in India’s second innings to take his match tally to 14.

Left-arm spinner Ajaz finally received some support from his slow bowling colleagues with part-time left-arm spinner Rachin Ravindra picking up 3-56.

The New Zealand fast bowlers once again failed to pick up a wicket but managed to restrict the Indian batters from scoring freely with a line aimed at their body from around the wicket.

Resuming the third day on 69-0, India openers Mayank Agarwal and Cheteshwar Pujara extended their partnership to 107 before Ajaz sent the former back.

Agarwal was out caught but not before he added a confident 62 to his first innings score of 150. Pujara also looked set for a half-century after failing to score in his last knock but was out caught in the slip for 47.

Regular opening batter Shubman Gill, who did not bat at his usual position on Saturday after suffering a blow to his right elbow while fielding, also missed out on a half-century by getting out on 47 as did India captain Virat Kohli, who made 36.

All-rounder Axar Patel provided some fireworks with the bat during his unbeaten 41, entertaining the Sunday crowd at the ground overlooking the Arabian Sea with four sixes and three fours in 26-ball innings. (Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Gerry Doyle and Kim Coghill)