Wellington: India battled back from 204 for six to 375/9 at stumps on the first day of the third and final Test at Basin Reserve in Wellington on Friday.
India's score of 375/9 is the highest they have made in a single day's play in Test cricket. NZ will be disappointed that they did not restrict the Indian line up especially since they had them 204/6 at one stage.
Sachin Tendulkar was the top scorer for the Indians with 62, his 53rd Test half-century, while India captain MS Dhoni, back in the side after missing the Test in Napier with a back problem, made 52 and put on a valuable 79-run stand with Harbhajan Singh, who made an entertaining 60.
India"s number 10 and 11, Ishant Sharma (15 not out) and Munaf Patel (14 not out) frustrated the home team, and had already added 28 runs in just 4 overs for the 10th wicket when the stumps were drawn.
Earlier in the day, after New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori won the toss and opted to make first use the cherry, India made a flying start as Virender Sehwag, unleashed an array of attacking shots.
The Indians scored 185 runs off 35 overs in the final session for the loss of just four wickets, effectively giving them the edge after an entertaining opening day
New Zealand took three quick wickets in the session after lunch to leave India at 190 for five in their first innings on the opening day of the third and deciding Test match here Friday.
Earlier India were off to a flying start as sggressive Indian opener Virender Sehwag and partner Gautam Gambhir put on 73 runs in the first 15 overs.
Sehwag, who raced along to 48 runs off just 51 balls, courtesy of seven boundaries and a six, was cramped for room to an incoming delivery by Ian O' Brien, edged one as McCullum claimed an easy catch behind the stumps, giving the hosts" the all-important breakthrough.
In the very next over, India lost its second wicket in the form of Gautam Gambhir. The Napier man was trapped in front of the wicket by James Franklin for 23 runs.
Their dismissals in successive overs put the brakes on the Indian innings for a while but Tendulkar was in fluent form as he closed in on his 50 after lunch.
Sachin Tendulkar hit a poised 62 as India got the upper hand after lunch but his dismissal signalled a mini-collapse for the tourists, who led the series 1-0 going into the final Test.
Tendulkar had put on 90 runs with Rahul Dravid for the third wicket before his dismissal in the 42nd over signalled the fall of three wickets for just 17 runs as India slid from 165 for two 182 for five.
The next to follow was VVS Laxman, who rather unusually reached out to a wide ball from Tim Southee but failed to make any solid contact, edging it to second slip where Tim McIntosh, who has been quite easily New Zealand"s best slipper in the series, dived to his left to take the catch. Southee"s first wicket generated animated reactions in his camp.
Soon after, Yuvraj Singh was nailed leg-before wicket when he plunged to the back-foot off a Jesse Ryder delivery, only to be trapped in line with the stumps. India had lost half their side by this juncture as Captain MS Dhoni came out to join the battling Dravid.
India is on the verge of creating a history in New Zealand. Team India just need a draw to secure its first series win in New Zealand in 41 years.
After beating New Zealand by 10 wickets in the first test at Hamilton and drawing the high-scoring second test at Napier, India can clinch the three-test series with a win or draw at the Basin Reserve.