India beat New Zealand by 7 wickets in the third ODI at Mount Maunganui to attain an unassailable 3-0 lead in the series. In the last one year, India has defeated South Africa, Australia and New Zealand in their own backyards, that too convincingly. This phase of Indian ODI cricket success is without a parallel in its history. Virat Kohli must be very proud!!
Coming to today’s match, the game was played on the same pitch that was used on Saturday. The pitch was expected to be on the slower side and to aid spin. New Zealand won the toss and opted to bat.
What worked and What didn’t?
New Zealand put up a slightly improved performance and made an honest attempt to bat out the 50 overs. However, the openers didn’t seem to have gotten the memo. Munro and Guptil came in and kept swatting at Shami and Bhuvi’s deliveries. The India pacers found their bat’s edges and sent them back to the pavilion. Kane Williamson looked totally out of sorts and struggled with his timing. Chahal got Kane to play a false shot in the air, which Hardik Pandya grabbed with an acrobatic effort, diving to his left.
The most productive partnership of the series for the Kiwis followed Kane’s wicket. Ross Taylor and Tom Latham, played responsibly and kept the score card ticking against the spinners. They played Kuldeep very well today and scored runs off him as well. Both the batsmen scored important fifties for their team. At 178/3, the Kiwis looked good for a score close to 300. However, once Latham lost his wicket, the Kiwis crumbled to a score of 243 in 49 overs.
Despite the improved batting performance, the Kiwi batsmen failed to bat out their full quota of 50 overs. The finish was extremely disappointing with their lower order batsmen employing hopeless ‘airy-fairy’ methods to score runs.
Trent Boult and Mitchell Santner were the pick of the bowlers for the Kiwis. The highlight of the Kiwi bowling effort was how beautifully Santner beat Rohit in the flight and got him stumped.
The other bowlers were quite expensive and did not make much of an impression. Doug Bracewell and Ish Sodhi were quite disappointing in not using the help that was available from the used pitch. One would have expected Ish Sodhi to trouble the Indian batsmen on the wearing pitch. Contrary to expectations, the Indian batsmen went after them to get their runs. Lockie Fergusson bowled with pace but could not stop the experienced Indian top order.
Shami was the best bowler in this game and was duly rewarded with the Man-of-the-match award, again. The hard work that Shami put in the Oz test series is paying rich dividends for him now. He bowled with the same intensity as he did in the test matches and got important wickets.
Hardik Pandya was the second best bowler for India in this game. He bowled at good pace, at times hit 140 kmph, and looked determined to make a big impression on the game. Hardik fielded like a tiger as well. Hopefully, he is back to what he does best.
Despite the team’s success in this series, Virat must be slightly worried about the form of Bhuvi. He hasn’t been at his usual best in this series.
Chahal and Kuldeep went for a few runs today. Taylor and Latham batted well against them. Starting against well set batsmen and keeping them under check, is one aspect that the spin duo will want to learn before the World cup starts.
Chasing a score of 244 in 50 overs was not much of a challenge for this in-form batting unit. Shikar looked in good form and got the team off to a very good start. After Shikar’s wicket, Rohit and Kohli got together and piled on their 15th 100 run partnership. Whenever Rohit scores a fifty or a hundred, he is sure to hit a few big sixers along the way. My favorite in today’s innings, was the one that he hit off Santner. If that six was a beauty, the way he got out, looked quite the opposite!
After the fall of Kohli and Rohit, DK and Rayudu got together and took India home to a comfortable victory with 7 overs to spare. Dinesh Karthik looked in imperious touch. One could clearly see the difference in the timing of DK’s shots and Rayudu’s. The ball flew off DK’s bat, as though it bounced off a spring. One hopes that DK gets a place in the playing XI, as a pure batsman, ahead of Rayudu.
There is no stopping this Indian juggernaut! Now, it has flattened Mount Maunganui to take the series in New Zealand. Like Simon Doull said on Cricbuzz, this Indian team has all their bases covered. They have backups as well for important positions. I would like to contradict him a bit. In my opinion, the No.4 batting position is still up for grabs. I think it should go to Dhoni or DK. If Shami keeps bowling the way he is currently, Bhuvi might not be an automatic starter in the XI.
With Virat Kohli taking a much-needed break, I am excited to see if the team would play Shubman Gill in the fourth ODI. Everyone is gushing about this 19 year old’s precocious talent. Can’t wait to see him bat!! In fact, can’t wait to see how far the Indian team goes in this phase of exceptional cricket.