Nagpur:Bowling will be the key for India as they push for a win against a gritty New Zealand in the series-deciding third and final Test starting on Saturday.
India, the world number one Test team, began as overwhelming favourites to claim the three-Test rubber but have been surprised by some inspired performances by the eighth-ranked Kiwis.
New Zealand had India reeling at 15-5 in their second innings in the first Test in Ahmedabad before tailender Harbhajan Singh struck a match-saving 115 to ensure a draw for the hosts.
The visitors impressed again in the drawn second Test in Hyderabad with Brendon McCullum hitting a maiden double-century to snuff out India's chances of a victory.
India were done in by a rather indifferent performance by their bowling attack, depleted further by an injury to frontline paceman Zaheer Khan during the course of the match.
Zaheer has since been ruled out of the decider and his place is likely to be taken up by Ishant Sharma.
"We have other bowlers who have done well," said Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. "You can say that Zaheer has been our spearhead, whatever the track may be.
"But we lost him in the middle of the game in Hyderabad and it became a bit tough. The other bowlers are doing their job though. With a bit more assistance from the pitch in Nagpur, I hope they will be able to get batsmen out."
New Zealand's bowlers have been more disciplined, with an agile fielding adding to their overall effort.
Kiwi skipper Daniel Vettori, brimming with confidence, said his team were not content with the draws and would look to cap their Test outing with a win in Nagpur.
"It was never our intention to come here and draw," he said. "If you get into that frame of mind you take a backward step straightaway. We have come here to win a Test series and at times we've put ourselves in those positions. "We still want to push, try and put ourselves in winning positions because not many New Zealand teams have come over here and won. It would be such an amazing achievement for us, for this side."
New Zealand have won just two Tests in India while losing 10 and drawing 16.
The one big obstacle in Kiwis' quest for the elusive win is Harbhajan, who has proved to be a thorn in their flesh with his new-found batting prowess.
The gutsy bowler tops the run-getters list with an aggregate of 295 from three innings, including two back-to-back centuries.
"Harbhajan has played so aggressively, it has really put us on the back foot," said Vettori.
"If we manage to get through the Indian middle-order again, we have got to be ready for Harbhajan and go pretty hard at him because he has played so well in these two Test matches."
Dhoni though would have been happier had Harbhajan shown similar form with the ball. The off-spinner has taken has taken just six wickets while giving away 305 runs at an average of more than 50 in the two Tests.
The Nagpur Test will be followed by five One-Day Internationals starting on November 28.