Wellington: Stand-in skipper Rohit Sharma showered praise on his team after India defeated New Zealand by 35 runs to clinch the five-match ODI rubber 4-1 here on Sunday.
After a top-order collapse in the fifth and final contest, Ambati Rayudu (90), Vijay Shankar (45) and all-rounder Hardik Pandya (45) rose to the occasion to help India reach a fighting 252 before the Indian bowlers came into the picture to dismiss the Kiwis for 217.
“At the toss, I said we needed to come together as a team and we did that. Four down, we needed someone to apply, and Rayudu and Vijay Shankar did that. The way Hardik and Kedar played was magnificent,” Rohit said after the match.
“We showed a lot of character. With the ball as well. Bowlers got crucial breakthroughs at critical times. When you want to win games, you’ve got to find the right balance. Coming here and beating them at home wasn’t going to be easy,” the skipper added.
Meanwhile, New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson also acknowledged the role of the Indian bowling attack and said losing wickets at regular intervals hurt his team’s chances.
“Scoring rate never got away from us but it was just that we lost wickets at the wrong time. They did it pretty well through Rayudu with 90,” Williamson said.
“We know how well India bowl on any surface. They’ve taught us a few lessons in our own conditions. They’re a world class outfit, they deserve the series win,” added the Kiwi captain.
When Sharma won the toss and elected to bat the pressure was on India to bounce back from their paltry 92-run defeat in the fourth ODI.
For a time it looked as if another failure was looming when Matt Henry and Trent Boult ripped out the first four wickets in under 10 overs.
But when the swing bowlers were taken out of the equation, Rayudu and Vijay Shankar toyed with the attack as New Zealand used another five bowlers in a fruitless search for a wicket.
They put on 98 for the fifth wicket before Shankar was run out at 45 through miscommunication.
Rayudu faced 84 deliveries to reach 44 and only 27 balls for his remaining 46 runs in an innings that included eight fours and four sixes.
He had a life on 60 when dropped by Boult and was eventually removed when Henry, New Zealand’s most successful bowler, came back for his second spell.
The series now moves on to three Twenty20 matches beginning in Wellington on Wednesday.