Ahmedabad: India maintained their stranglehold despite a creditable century by Nathan Astle that helped New Zealand claw back and needing 18 runs to avoid the follow-on in the first cricket Test in Ahmedabad on Friday. Tottering at 17 for three at one stage, New Zealand fought back into the match on the third day mainly on account of Astle's 103-run knock and his 91-run stand with half-centurion Craig McMillan (54). But India, enjoying the cushion of 500 runs in the first innings, neutralised the Kiwi advantage by taking three wickets in the final session of play to again have the visitors on the backfoot at 282 for eight when stumps were drawn for the day.
Defying the pace-spin attack of the Indians at close were a pair of spinners in Daniel Vettori, batting on 28, and Paul Wiseman, not out on eight. It were the spinners -- Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble -- who made it difficult for the rival batsmen to score easy runs. The duo were rewarded for their efforts, with Harbhajan getting rid of Scott Styris and Astle and Kumble dismissing Jacob Oram. Debutant L Balaji snared his first Test wicket when he had Robbie Hart trapped plumb in front as New Zealand were reduced to 265 for eight.
But that was about all as the Indian bowlers failed to finish off the tail to leave the match interestingly poised.