Suffering a crushing seven-wicket loss in the fourth One-Day International at Hamilton, India (278 for five) surrendered the five-match series against New Zealand (280 for three).
They had lost the first ODI in Napier (24 runs) as also the second one in Hamilton (15 runs), before tying the third match in Auckland, giving an unassailable 3-0 to the hosts with one match to go in Wellington.
Contest of the Day
In the New Zealand innings, Mahendra Singh Dhoni deployed Ravindra Jadeja in the 11th over. The pitch used in this match was the same one used prior in the second ODI and there was some turn to be found therein. Kane Williamson struggled to put bat to ball and immediately Ravichandran Ashwin was put on from the other end.
India’s spin twins bowled 10 overs, conceding just 30 runs, and putting pressure on the in-form pairing of Williamson and Ross Taylor.
It was a battle that held the potential to decide the direction of the match. India needed wickets, while New Zealand needed to save wickets while scoring runs. The risk factor was very high. Call it good luck, but the Black Caps had their two best batsmen from the series up against the spin.
Throughout the series, this pairing has befuddled the Indian bowling in the middle overs and this day was no different. Armed with their experience of dealing with Jadeja-Ashwin, they took a step back this time and bided their time for the Indian captain wouldn’t risk bowling out his best bowlers. More importantly they did not concede a wicket.
And so, it happened. After 10 overs, Dhoni brought back his medium pacers and the next 10 overs went for a whopping 70 runs, and the whole pressure scenario dissipated into thin air.
Player of the Day
There could be a poll on this as two players stood out for their performances on the same day. Jadeja and Taylor shone for their respective sides, but perhaps the batsman just shaves this ahead of the all-rounder.
Rohit Sharma made good on his start for the first time in the series, but even so, Dhoni needed to accelerate things. A second consecutive fifty for Jadeja kept the Indian captain company as they helped India to a respectable total.
The latter was given a free license to go for his shots and he did, being a shade more aggressive than his senior partner who was just playing to stay there until the end. He scored 62 runs off 54 balls, with eight fours and two sixes, remaining unbeaten in the end.
Then he came on to bowl a brilliant first spell and had he taken a wicket during his first five overs, it is very possible that the match could hae shaped up differently.
But it was Taylor who thwarted Jadeja, and that is why he wins on the day. The batsman has been given a central role in this middle order, batting at number four and giving direction to the New Zealand innings, and he has performed this role with aplomb.
For that he was needed to curb his aggressive instincts, and he did so by first of all forgetting that slog sweep shot. Then he worked on his game on the off-side and when a predominantly leg-scoring batsman can play spanking drives through cover and point, it says a lot about his maturity.
It is in this role that the big difference lies in this series, given how sorely India have missed someone scoring runs at number four and giving shape to their innings.
In the 22nd over of the New Zealand innings, Dhoni took off his spinners and brought on Stuart Binny who gave away eight runs in his only over.
Worried about a lack of pressure from his part-time options, he brought on his medium pacers, wherein Bhuvneshwar Kumar was taken for 10 runs in two overs.
He even tried Varun Aaron and some part-time spin from Ambati Rayudu, but to no avail. The bowlers almost gave away one boundary every over, releasing whatever pressure Jadeja and Ashwin had created.
Post-match, Dhoni stated that he ‘wanted to hold back his spinners for the time when the batsmen needed to play big shots’, which they never needed to because of poor bowling from his other bowlers.
It makes for some wonderment, what would have happened had he bowled his spinners in tandem for twenty overs?
© Cricket World 2014