As delighted as New Zealand must have been at mounting their highest run-chase in Hamilton, Saturday’s victory in Auckland that helped them clinch the ODI series will be more satisfying.
Already without several key players, they had to grapple with a gastro bug sweeping through their ranks, a sub-par score and a formidable Indian batting line-up, yet such was their desperation to win that they defended 273 quite expertly.
Once again, Ross Taylor showed what a class act he is, batting through the innings after India clawed their way back in the middle stages.
Martin Guptill played an excellent hand, but until debutant Kyle Jamieson joined him, Taylor was waging a lone battle. At one stage, it looked as if New Zealand might have to settle for 220 or thereabouts, but through sensible batting, they reached a total which gave their bowlers something to fight with.
It must be a cause for concern for India that Jasprit Bumrah, Virat Kohli’s go-to bowler whenever he has needed breakthroughs, has been short of wickets all tour. Additionally, his lengths too haven’t been spot-on, which means he hasn’t been able to impose usual pressure. Of course, New Zealand’s batsmen have played him really well, with Taylor in the forefront.
At the break, India must have fancied their chances of drawing level, but when you lose three wickets in the first ten overs, including Virat’s, you are always playing catch-up. Tim Southee’s dismissal of Virat was an example of New Zealand’s smartness in working out and sticking to game plans. Even though he was physically suffering, Southee kept at it. He set Virat up with a series of away-swingers, then brought one back in to sneak it through the gate, a fantastic piece of bowling.
Shreyas Iyer, who batted well, and Kedar Jadhav will rue the strokes that led to their dismissal. Iyer’s was probably the more damaging because he was well set and had just brought up his fifty when he needlessly tried to manufacture a stroke to a ball on his stumps. Jadhav, the most-experienced middle-order batsman in this side who has been in such situations before, brought about his own downfall through his inability to rotate strike.
Ravindra Jadeja, who had a good outing with the ball too, rallied the lower order and found support from Shardul Thakur and the impressive Navdeep Saini, but Tom Latham used his inexperienced resources superbly. New Zealand sit deservedly on a series-winning lead, but India have work to do going into Tuesday’s dead rubber.