IND v NZ: All-round Kiwis level series

Although India's spin bowlers allowed the home team to restrict New Zealand to 260 for 7, the batting faltered in chase. New Zealand came out on top in the fourth One-Day International by 19 runs to square the five-match series 2-2.

Axar Patel resurrected India's fading innings with a quickfire 38, but it was not enough to secure a victory.   -  K. R. Deepak

New Zealand successfully scaled the inertia in its ranks and pulled off a fine performance to beat a formidable India by 19 runs and restore parity in the ODI series here at the JSCA International Stadium on Wednesday.

> Scorecard and ball-by-ball updates

The result was big disappointment for the home crowd, which had come in thousands to cheer for native hero Mahendra Singh Dhoni to secure the series with a win. The visitor spoiled the party with a better show of discipline and all-round efficiency. With the series tied 2-2, the focus now moves to Visakhapatnam, which will host the decider on Saturday.

India’s bowling, led by the spin triumvirate of Amit Mishra, Axar Patel and Kedar Jadhav, worked out a fine comeback to restrict New Zealand, which made a flying start, for 260 for seven in the allotted 50 overs

In reply, India folded up in 241 after its tail-enders made a resolute bid to salvage the match that had moved away from India’s grasp due to a batting collapse.

 

New Zealand pacers did the damage against India’s batsmen, who sought to prepare for spinners. The host had looked heavily dependent on Virat Kohli, who had been the most prolific Indian batsman and aggregated 293 runs at an average of 146. Kohli, who had inspired the previous two wins - in Dharmashala and Mohali - remaining unbeaten on 85 and 154, failed to reach another big score and virtually ended the host’s prospects.

A momentary lapse in concentration saw Kohli, who made a fine 45 (51b, 2x4, 1x6), snared by the Kiwi wicketkeeper BJ Watling as he chased a wide delivery from leg-spinner Ish Sodhi.

India’s captain Dhoni could not reciprocate the faith shown by the home crowd on his ability. Dhoni continued to live dangerously against the Kiwi spinners, especially Sodhi, and perished against a James Neesham delivery which kept low and went through his defence.

Rohit Sharma’s dry run continued as the opener returned early after scoring two boundaries in his 11. Sharma’s opening partner Ajinkya Rahane applied himself much better to score a fine 57 (70b, 5x4, 1x6) but could not effectively translate the good work into a match-winning knock.

After Rahane left - trapped leg-before to another deceptive Neesham delivery - the Indian fight was all but over. Dhoni was the next to go, leaving the youngsters Axar Patel and Manish Pandey to do a resurrection act. But that was not to happen despite Axar providing some resistance with a resolute 40-ball 38 (3x4, 1x6) and No. 10 Dhawal Kulkarni taking the fight ahead with a breezy 25 in 31-run stand for the last wicket.

Positive start for NZ

New Zealand’s captain Kane Williamson opted to bat on winning the toss for the first time in the series. Calling the pitch ‘tired’, Williamson hoped the blandness of the surface would help the team’s beleaguered batting get back in the rhythm.

New Zealand made three changes bringing in wicketkeeper BJ Watling for an off-colour Luke Ronchi, and spinners Anton Devcich for Corey Anderson and Ish Sodhi for Matt Henry.

The New Zealand captain appeared to have thought it well as Martin Guptill and Tom Latham got down to script a fine partnership that seemed to end long-standing opening woes for the visitor.

Guptill and Latham paired in a 96-run (in 93 balls) stand, giving the express start the Kiwis had been hoping for long. Latham got out to left-arm spinner Axar Patel leaving Guptill to do the scoring. Guptill, who was given two lives by Mishra, enjoyed the reprieve well to reach 72 (84b, 12x4).

After he got out, the innings became sluggish as captain Williamson (41) and Ross Taylor (34) struggled against the Indian spin attack. The Indian spinners combined to bowl pretty well and gave away only 107 runs in 28 overs at a rate of 3.82 runs an over that restricted New Zealand to a reasonable score, but the score proved to be enough for a series-levelling victory.