BLACKCAPS sniff victory after enforcing follow on

 The startling transformation of New Zealand's test cricket fortunes inside a week has set up a potentially series-levelling victory after India's imposing batting line-up flickered then folded in dramatic style on McLean Park.

Seven days after sauntering to a 10-wicket win with a day to spare in Hamilton, India, the world's third-ranked test nation, suffered the indignity of being asked to follow on -- on a pitch confirmed as a batting nirvana for strokemakers.

India's first attempt at matching New Zealand's imposing 619 for nine declared fizzled out on 305 in the final session -- a massive 314 in arrears and 115 short of 420-run required to avoid batting a second time.

Daniel Vettori had no hesitation in asking India to bat again, the first time a New Zealand captain has had that luxury against a major test playing nation since Stephen Fleming demanded the West Indies do likewise at Wellington's Basin Reserve in December 1999.

That match was memorable for Mathew Sinclair's first double century; Jesse Ryder made 201 yesterday and New Zealand will hope the comparisons do not end there as Fleming's team eventually prevailed by an innings and 105 runs.

At stumps on an eventful day which even saw talisman Ryder entrusted with the second new ball for an over, India were in need of salvation at 47 for one, 267 shy of making New Zealand bat again.

Gautam Gambhir was not out 14 and first innings top scorer Rahul Dravid resumes on 11 after being called upon to bat a second time after Virender Sehwag again showed scant regard for India's predicament.

Staying true to form by dashing 22 from 21 deliveries, the stand-in captain then attempted an audacious sweep to Jeetan Patel's second ball and was leg before wicket to give New Zealand even more cause for celebration.

New Zealand have two days to take the required nine wickets and although the pitch shows to hint of deterioration, the performance of India's century-laden batting unit offers hope.

Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Dravid and VVS Laxman all made starts in the tourists' first innings but crucially none was able to build an individual innings -- or partnership -- to rival Ryder and fellow centurion Ross Taylor's 271-run stand on Thursday.

Although New Zealand chipped out three wickets as the shadows lengthened last night, India retained enough quality to suggest the bowlers were in for a hard day's toil.

Dravid and Tendulkar certainly appeared unruffled as they set about reducing a 540-run deficit.

The pair advanced the score from 79 overnight with clinical efficiency until a languid Tendulkar misread the last ball of Patel's fourth over of the day 25 minutes before lunch.

It pitched, turned a fraction and Tendulkar, on 49, could not avoid edging to Taylor's left at first slip to end a pesky 87-run stand for the fourth wicket.

Tendulkar's demise united Dravid with Laxman -- the pair already assured of a place in Indian cricket folklore by amassing 376 at Kolkata's Eden Gardens in 2001 after following on against Australia.

Again the duo appeared at ease in guiding India to 189 for four at lunch but the resolute Dravid's powers of concentration finally wavered late in the middle session. Man-of-the-moment Ryder's sixth ball saw him play an out of character cut at a wide delivery that flew off the edge to Brendon McCullum's gloves.

Dravid might have been out in the same way for 55 from Vettori's bowling, though replacement umpire Evan Watkin detected a front foot no-ball as the wicketkeeper grabbed a feathered edge.

Otherwise Dravid looked serene in recording his 55th test half century, one that seemed certain to translate to his 27th hundred until Ryder's golden arm struck.

Dravid's demise on 83 after five hours toil snapped an 81-run liaison and preceded the arrival of the second new ball -- and a welcome milestone for fast bowler Martin.

He had Yuvraj Singh caught at slip for an 11-ball duck -- a strike that enabled him to became the fifth New Zealand bowler to take 150 wickets. Martin then accounted for Laxman (76) and Dinesh Karthik (6) to close in on Danny Morrison's career haul of 160.

In all, India lost their last six wickets for 59, Martin closing with three for 89.

Iain O'Brien started the second innings on a hat-trick after removing Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan -- to a screamer by all-action Ryder in the gully --- in successive balls.

Sehwag duly hit his first delivery to the boundary, not that it took the gloss off a memorable day for the home side.

NZPA

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