Indians lacked spirit and failed to nail key moments
Ross Taylor’s bat-speed is his ally. So is his ability to judge length. Not many batsmen in contemporary cricket play the cut shot more forcefully than this 29-year-old batsman from Wellington.
The right-hander used the crease to disrupt the rhythm of the Indian attack with an unbeaten 112 at the Seddon Park on Tuesday.
In the process, Taylor guided New Zealand to a comprehensive seven-wicket victory in the fourth ODI.
The Kiwis now have a winning 3-0 lead in the five-match ANZ series with one game remaining. They chased down 279 on a surface that assisted spin with tact and panache.
A disappointing India will remain No. 2 in the ODI ranking at the conclusion of the series. The side lacked spirit, failed to nail key moments.
Taylor adjudged Man-of-the-Match, blended solidity with enterprise. This was his ninth ODI century.
Openers Martin Guptill and Jesse Ryder departed after providing the innings some momentum. Then, Kane Williamson and Taylor proved a roadblock to India with a third wicket partnership of 130.
The smooth-stroking Williamson, who notched up his fourth successive half-century of the series, was once again involved in a vital association. He does manoeuvre the ball skilfully; with footwork, wrists and timing.
The brilliant Taylor and Williamson took the game away from India. Given the slightest opportunity, Taylor essayed rapier-like cuts off R. Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. And Taylor’s cover-drive off paceman Mohammed Shami cut like a knife through the grass.
The game-changing partnership ended after bowler Jadeja’s smart pick-up and throw caught Williamson short.
Soon, Shami put down a tough caught and bowled chance from Brendon McCullum (on one).
The lapse proved costly as Taylor and skipper McCullum (49 not out) added 92 unbeaten runs for the fourth wicket to close out the contest. McCullum’s six over long-off against fast bowler Varun Aaron was a stunning strike.
A slow start once again hurt India. Both sides lost two wickets in the first 10 overs but while India made only 28, the Kiwis whipped up 65.
The Indian pacemen often pitched short and wide to concede boundaries.
The surface assisted the spinners, however, Ashwin and Jadeja suffered since the pressure was being released by the seamers.
As the game progressed, the Indian out-cricket turned sloppy; fielders invariably dived after the ball had passed, left the sphere between legs.
And McCullum’s skier towards the end off Shami had both Jadeja and Rayudu getting under the ball. The catch was spilled.
Given that the series was still alive, it was hard to comprehend the logic of sending Virat Kohli opening – he has settled down so well at the No. 3 – and shuffling the line-up.
The Indian innings was given a boost when skipper M.S. Dhoni (79 not out) and Ravindra Jadeja (62 not out) gathered 100 hectic runs in the last 10 overs.
But then, India, electing to bat, needed to put up a total beyond 300 on this small ground. Kohli departed early when the right-hander miscued a pull off Tim Southee. Not much later No. 3, Ajinkya Rahane, top-edged a hook off Kyle Mills. Rohit was fortunate early on; Taylor grassed him in the slip cordon off Southee.
The swing bowler operated with verve and control.
Unable to push the rate of scoring initially, Rohit gradually displayed his touch. Rayudu too struck the ball crisply.
Rohit created room with delicate footwork to smoke Southee over covers.
Rayudu clipped and pulled Hamish Bennett before top-edging a hook off the same bowler. A well-set Rohit (79) nicked one outside leg off part-time off-spinner Williamson.
The right-left pair of Dhoni and Jadeja rallied for India. Dhoni’s powerful wrists enabled him whip repeatedly over mid-wicket.
When he blasted Neesham straight, the bowler had to take evasive action.
Jadeja too found his timing and range. Runs flowed but India had conceded ground in the initial overs.
For the Kiwis, Mills was excellent at the finish, varying his pace and angles.
Given the limitations of this Indian team, New Zealand, keen to manage the workload of the influential Corey Anderson rested the all-rounder. Such was the Kiwis’ level of confidence.
India: Rohit Sharma c Ronchi b Williamson 79 (94b, 6x4, 4x6), Virat Kohli c Neesham b Southee 2 (10b), Ajinkya Rahane c Southee b Mills 3 (8b), Ambati Rayudu c Ronchi b Bennett 37 (58b, 3x4, 2x6), M.S. Dhoni (not out) 79 (73b, 6x4, 3x6), R. Ashwin c Bennett b Southee 5 (3b, 1x4), Ravindra Jadeja (not out) 62 (54b, 8x4, 2x6); Extras (lb-4, w-7): 11; Total (for five wkts. in 50 overs): 278.
Fall of wickets: 1-5 (Kohli), 2-22 (Rahane), 3-101 (Rayudu), 4-142 (Rohit), 5-151 (Ashwin).
New Zealand bowling: Kyle Mills 10-2-42-1, Tim Southee 10-1-36-2, Hamish Bennett 9-0-67-1, James Neesham 8-0-59-0, Nathan McCullum 10-0-44-0, Kane Williamson 3-0-26-1.
New Zealand: Martin Guptill lbw b Shami 35 (27b, 6x4, 1x6), Jessie Ryder b Aaron 19 (18b, 4x4), Kane Williamson run out 60 (82b, 2x4, 2x6), Ross Taylor (not out) 112 (127b, 15x4), Brendon McCullum (not out) 49 (36b, 4x4, 3x6); Extras: (b-1, w-3, nb-1): 5; Total (for three wkts. in 48.1 overs): 280.
Fall of wickets: 1-54 (Ryder), 2-58 (Guptill), 3-188 (Williamson).
India bowling: Bhuvneshwar Kumar 10-0-62-0, Mohammad Shami 8-0-61-1, Varun Aaron 6.1-0-51-1, Ravindra Jadeja 10-2-33-0, R. Ashwin 10-0-41-0, Stuart Binny 1-0-8-0, Ambati Rayudu 3-0-23-0.
Man-of-the-Match: Ross Taylor.