An unbelievable finish!

While one team played organised, efficient cricket, the other went about its game in a manner that lacked cohesion. The final verdict — a defeat for India by 87 runs — reflected the difference in intensity between the two teams. By S. Dinakar.

“Even in my wildest dreams, I did not expect a 4-0 score-line,” said the New Zealand coach, Mike Hesson, after the ODI in Wellington.

When the top team in one-day internationals takes on the eighth-ranked side, you honestly don’t expect such score-lines. But one team played organised, efficient cricket, while the other went about its game in a manner that lacked cohesion.

“We had plans for the Indians. But it needs special cricketers to execute those plans under pressure,” said Hesson.

Even if the Indians had plans, they were hardly visible. For most part, this team dished out a brand of cricket that lacked conviction. The 87-run loss in the fifth ODI at the Westpac Stadium reflected the difference in intensity between the two teams.

Even though New Zealand had already sealed the series 3-0 ahead of the contest, the host went all out for a 4-0 verdict. It wanted to underline its dominance in the series.

India won the toss for the fifth successive time in the series, but it did not bring about any change of luck. Once again, India conceded beyond 300, indicating a lack of incision in its attack. Where were the yorkers from the pacemen?

For New Zealand, debutant seamer Matt Henry hounded India during its chase. The 22-year-old bowler from Canterbury, playing only because Tim Southee was nursing an injury, impressed. He bowled off a fluent run-up, operated to an off-stump line, took the ball away from the right-hander and brought the odd delivery in.

Henry bowled close to 140 kmph and showed he could shift his line capably. He got Shikhar Dhawan to edge one to the cordon.

India was rocked at the beginning, and despite a defiant 82 from Virat Kohli and some hefty blows from skipper Dhoni (47), it never quite recovered. A total of 216 represented a meek surrender.

“This series has shown we cannot depend on one or two batsmen alone. Everyone has to contribute. We are losing wickets and there is too much pressure on the middle-order and the lower middle-order,” Dhoni said.

Once again, the start was sluggish. Worse, wickets were lost to the new ball. “We have been slow at the beginning, lost wickets and been playing catch up. The asking rate climbs and there has been too much pressure on the later batsmen,” lamented Dhoni.

As the innings progressed, New Zealand cut all escape routes for the Indian batsmen. Off-spinner Nathan McCullum sent down a tight spell and had a battling Kohli caught at long-on. Kyle Mills was canny, altering his pace and shifting his angles. There was no let-up in pressure from the Kiwis.

“I think the bowlers did a fine job. We have had Matt (Henry) in mind for quite a while now. A lot of credit should go to the back-room staff for preparing these cricketers,” said skipper Brendon McCullum.

If the Indian batting, for most part, was spineless, New Zealand showed character with the bat. Once again, the innings revolved around the third wicket partnership that lent stability to the innings. Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor added 152 runs for the third wicket to build a solid platform for the Kiwis.

Williamson, who used his feet and struck the ball fluently on both sides of the pitch, came up with his fifth successive half-century of the series. This elegant shot-maker has batted with composure and responsibility.

Taylor, who cut and drove with panache, notched up his second successive century of the series. The right-hander, with the emotional turmoil of the past seasons well behind him, is at peace with himself these days. And this is reflecting in his batting.

Taylor’s 106-ball 102 was a top innings. He found the gaps with precise placements; he was in control right through.

Paceman Varun Aaron worked up some speed — he touched the 150 kmph mark and consistently operated in the high 140s — but Taylor was quick to put away anything loose.

“The middle-order batting was the difference between the two sides. They set the innings up and this meant the latter batsmen could get 25-30 extra runs in the end,” said Dhoni.

Indeed, James Neesham’s cameo took the Kiwis past the 300-run mark. It was a vital innings at the finish.

“We could not stop the flow of runs or strike in the middle overs. This is another aspect of our cricket we would have to look at,” felt Dhoni.

As the Kiwis closed out the game, there was jubilation in the camp. Brendon McCullum termed the comprehensive win as his finest moment in an ODI series as captain.

“India started the series as the No. 1 ODI side in the world and we had to play some very good cricket,” the Kiwi skipper said. “We are turning out to be a pretty formidable bowling group. But the batsmen gave the bowlers enough runs to bowl with.”

The Kiwis’ commitment could be seen in fielding as well. The Indians were consistently under stress. For India, the series, simply put, was a nightmare.

THE SCORE

Fifth ODI, Westpac Stadium, Wellington. New Zealand won by 87 runs.

New Zealand: M. Guptill c Shami b Aaron 16, J. Ryder c Rahane b B. Kumar 17, K. Williamson c Rahane b Aaron 88, R. Taylor c Dhawan b Shami 102, B. McCullum c Sharma b Kohli 23, J. Neesham (not out) 34, L. Ronchi (not out) 11, Extras (b-1, lb-6, w-5) 12. Total (for 5 wkts in 50 overs) 303.

Fall of wickets: 1-22, 2-41, 3-193, 4-243, 5-274.

India bowling: Shami 10-3-61-1, B. Kumar 8-0-48-1, Aaron 10-0-60-2, Ashwin 6-0-37-0, Jadeja 9-0-54-0, Kohli 7-0-36-1.

India: R. Sharma c Taylor b Mills 4, S. Dhawan c N. McCullum b Henry 9, V. Kohli c sub (P. Young-Husband) b N. McCullum 82, A. Rahane lbw b Henry 2, A. Rayudu c Williamson b Henry 20, M. Dhoni c Neesham b Williamson 47, R. Ashwin b Williamson 7, R. Jadeja c Guptill b Mills 5, B. Kumar c Ronchi b Henry 20, M. Shami (not out) 14, V. Aaron b Neesham 0, Extras (lb-1, w-4, nb-1) 6. Total (in 49.4 overs) 216.

Fall of wickets: 1-8, 2-20, 3-30, 4-78, 5-145, 6-167, 7-174, 8-181, 9-215.

New Zealand bowling: Mills 10-1-35-2, McClenaghan 10-0-45-0, Henry 10-1-38-4, Neesham 5.4-0-45-1, N. McCullum 10-1-33-1, Williamson 4-0-19-2.