JANUARY 28, 2019
Brief Scorecard: India 245 for 3 (Rohit 62, Kohli 60, Boult 2-40) beat New Zealand 243 (Taylor 93, Latham 51, Shami 3-41, Pandya 2-45) by 7 wickets
Mount Maunganui, NEW ZEALAND – For the first time in the series, New Zealand managed to dig in for long enough through their first century stand of this one-sided contest to be able to think of transferring the pressure back on India. The visitors, however, smothered that uprising to seal an emphatic 3-0 series win against a full-strength New Zealand, who have the best win-loss ratio at home since the last World Cup.
It was more of the delightful domination from India’s bowlers to reduce the hosts to 59 for 3; Ross Taylor and Tom Latham then added 119 for the fourth wicket but when it came to cashing in, India were too good once again, keeping the pressure up in the field and then breaking through with wickets for the returning Hardik Pandya and the rampant Mohammed Shami.
New Zealand lost their last seven wickets for 65 runs to end up with just 243, which proved to be below par by about 25. The slow nature of the pitch meant you could trouble batsmen if you banged the hard length. Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli had to take a few unusual risks to make sure the bowlers didn’t settle into a rhythm and their fifties did enough to make sure the middle order was not stretched.
Through the series, New Zealand have been grappling with questions rarely asked in bat-dominated ODI cricket these days. Once again the top order didn’t have answers. Colin Munro, after a brief attempt at curbing his natural game in the second ODI, threw his hands at everything; two balls after being dropped, he edged Shami to first slip again. Martin Guptill did much the same, and once again New Zealand had failed to deny the two new balls a wicket each. Once again, Yuzvendra Chahal was introduced with new batsmen under pressure, once again he delivered with an early wicket.
The early wicket for Chahal this time also announced the return of Pandya, who took a spectacular flying catch at short midwicket to send back Kane Williamson. Taylor and Latham then had to be at their best to make sure they didn’t lose the series then and there. Taylor was understandably slow to begin with, but Latham brought industriousness with his manipulation of spin. He was better at the sweep this time than in the previous game, and both gradually began to increase the scoring rate.
With Pandya back, India didn’t have to rely on Kedar Jadhav early – he had bowled ahead of Kuldeep Yadav in the two previous games – and by the time Jadhav came on to bowl his three overs this time, New Zealand were in a better position to attack him. New Zealand were 113 for 3 in 27 overs when Jadhav came on. In the next 10, New Zealand scored 63 without taking too many risks. Taylor had gone from 15 off 40 to 71 off 90. Latham was one short of a fifty. They had taken 85 off the wristspinners’ 16 overs for just the one wicket. This was the ideal scenario now; they were hoping for at least 100 off the last 13, and if things went well, even a score of 290 could not be ruled out.
Latham then tried to take six off Chahal over deep midwicket but under-hit the ball. A moment of indiscretion had put New Zealand right back under pressure. Pandya now jumped in. He had bowled seven overs for 26 runs until then, and with the catch earlier this was already a satisfactory return to action. The real blows came now. A slower bouncer handcuffed Henry Nicholls, and Mitchell Santner edged another slower ball outside off. Just like that New Zealand were 198 for 6 with everything now relying on Taylor.
Taylor threatened to switch gears in the company of Doug Bracewell, who scored a fifty in the last match, but Shami was quick to quell this mini resurgence. He stopped the partnership at 24, once again hitting the in-between length to catch Taylor playing the cut to a ball not short enough. The rest folded swiftly with New Zealand failing to bat out their 50 overs in all three innings this series.
It wasn’t as straightforward a chase as the eventual seven-over margin suggests. Shikhar Dhawan’s flying cameo of 28 off 27 at the top of the chase helped. Just as the slow pitch began to play its trick, Rohit and Kohli had the luxury of taking their time to get themselves in. Both of them had to take risks to eliminate the threat of Santner. In Santner’s second over, just after having been beaten on the outside edge, Rohit stepped out and launched him over long-off for a six. He had been 24 off 40 before that. In the 20th over, even Kohli played across the line and against the turn. He had been 19 off 35, and this was the only boundary since that Rohit six six overs ago.
The two batsmen, arguably already all-time greats in the format, knew this was the key contest, and they not only needed to deny Santner but also needed to not let him build too much pressure on them. Immediately after that, Kohli got stuck into Ish Sodhi, and the game had been broken open. By the time Rohit tried to hit Santner off his length again, to be out stumped for only the second time in this format, India had seen off Lockie Ferguson’s short-ball attack and needed just 92 in 127 balls.
A slower ball from Boult resulted in a rare Kohli dismissal between 50 and 100 but India were well on their way. Dinesh Karthik and Ambati Rayudu saw India through to the win, which sealed the most comprehensive home series defeat for New Zealand in six years.