Murali Vijay (65) and Cheteshwar Pujara (62) could not capitalise on their promising starts as New Zealand bounced back by taking three wickets in the second session, leaving India at 185 for four at tea on day one of the first Test on Thursday.
India, who elected to bat in the historic 500th Test, were on the top of the game in the morning but were put on the back-foot by the Kiwis in the post-lunch session during which they also got the crucial wicket of Indian captain Virat Kohli (9).
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Left-arm spinner Michael Santner, who removed the in-form KL Rahul before lunch, got rid of Pujara while Neil Wagner saw the back of Indian captain Kohli.
Five minutes before tea, Vijay tried to cut a shortish delivery from leg-break bowler Ish Sodhi but only managed a faint edge to wicketkeeper BJ Watling.
Vijay, who shared an 112-run stand with Pujara, was patient from one end, treating the balls on merit. For someone, who was in and out of the side during the West Indies tour and scored only seven runs on the Caribbean soil, it was a good opportunity to get a big one.
Despite it being a first-day pitch, the ball has started doing a bit for the spinners and it was not a surprise that of the 59 overs so far, 37 have been bowled by three Kiwi spinners.
Left-arm paceman Wagner also bowled his heart out in the second session and was rewarded with the important wicket of Kohli.
Vijay and Pujara continued in their nonchalant way in the post-lunch session, untroubled by the Kiwi bowlers.
Vijay guided Trent Boult to the third man with a late cut to touch 49 and survived an LBW appeal off Sodhi before reaching his fifty with a single off Boult in the next over, the 41st of the innings.
Pujara also completed his half-century by driving Sodhi straight after getting a couple off the same bowler.
Vijay preferred to play his shots from the back foot against both Sodhi or Boult while Pujara was impressive with his nimble footwork.
With nothing working for the Kiwis, New Zealand captain Kane Williamson tried to attack more by employing two close-in fielders — a slip and a forward short-leg, when Santner operated.
Wagner did get a bit of reverse swing but the well-set Indian batsmen dealt with it without fuss.
Santner provided the breakthrough again but it was a soft dismissal as Pujara lobbed one back to the bowler, attempting a straight shot. It was the kind of mistake Kiwis were hoping for and Pujara provided them the window.
Pujara 62, his eighth Test half-century, came off 109 balls with eight shots to the fence.