India slumped to their second consecutive series defeat overseas as New Zealand rode on Ross Taylor’s unbeaten century to thrash the visitors by seven wickets in the fourth one-dayer and take an unassailable 3-0 lead in the five-match rubber.
Chasing 279 for victory, the Kiwis reached 280 for three in 48.1 overs with Taylor scoring a match-winning 127-ball 112 not out to take the hosts home with 11 balls to spare.
Taylor also shared two important partnerships — first with Kane Williamson (60) putting on 130-run for the third wicket and then with skipper Brendon McCullum (49 not out), an unbroken 92 runs for the fourth wicket.
For India, Mohammed Shami (1/61) and Varun Aaron (1/51) were the only wicket-takers but they proved to be extremely expensive. Ravindra Jadeja (0/33) and R Ashwin (0-41) bowled economically, but couldn’t claim a wicket, which proved to be costly. Bhuvneshwar Kumar (0/62) too proved to be ineffective. Stuart Binny (0/8) and Ambati Rayudu (0/23) didn’t get second spells.
Earlier, India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja had produced magnificent late onslaught after opener Rohit Sharma scored a half-century, to guide India to 278 for five in their allotted 50 overs.
In reply, New Zealand got off to a rollicking start with Jesse Ryder and Martin Guptill mistreating the Indian bowling attack. The two of them scored a flurry of boundaries, especially off Mohammed Shami’s bowling, and together hit 10 fours and a six in their opening stand of 54 runs.
But once again Ryder failed to sustain and was bowled in the eight over by first-change Varun Aaron. He scored 19 off 18 balls with four boundaries.
Guptill was gone four runs later in the never next over, as Shami extracted his revenge from the opposite end, trapping the Auckland centurion LBW. He scored 35 off 27 balls (6X4, 1X6).
Williamson and Taylor thereafter capitalised on the platform laid by the openers.
India had lost 0-2 to South Africa in the three-game ODI series in their last tour.
As Taylor and Williamson were scoring heavily, Dhoni brought in Jadeja and Ashwin to put the brakes on the run flow and the two spinners bowled in tandem for 10 overs, giving away only 30 runs.
But the medium pacers had to come back into the attack and that once again opened the flood-gates as the next 10 overs yielded 70 runs with Taylor and Williamson putting the chase back on track.
Their 50-run partnership off 86 balls had come in the 23rd over as Rayudu bowled some part-time spin.
Taylor then brought up his half-century and New Zealand crossed the 150-mark as well. It was Williamson’s turn to celebrate in the next over, scoring his fourth consecutive fifty in the series, and his 10th in ODIs overall.
The 100-run partnership between the two also came up.
It seemed the chase was dead and buried, but India were given some hope by Jadeja, who ran out Williamson, who once again missed out on a hundred, falling for 60 off 82 balls, with two fours and two sixes.
The powerplay came on as Brendon McCullum walked in to bat. Having taken his time to settle down, the Kiwi captain started marauding the Indian bowling.
Only 24 runs came off the powerplay but the hosts were in no hurry, especially Taylor who didn’t hit a single six in his innings, and calmly brought up his ninth ODI hundred in the 43rd over. He faced 110 balls and hit 14 fours, routing any Indian hopes of a comeback in the series.
Towards the end, the duo hurriedly finished off things.
While McCullum was unbeaten on 49 off 36 balls, studded with four boundaries and three sixes, the star of the night, Taylor knock included 15 boundaries.
Dhoni had earlier won the toss and opted to bat first, a change from the team’s usual policy in the first three ODIs on this tour.
The visitors lost their top order quickly, but Rohit rebuilt the innings with a 94-ball 79, before Dhoni (79 not out) and Jadeja (62 not out) put on a fighting 127-run stand for the unbroken sixth wicket.
The final 10 overs brought 100 runs.
For the hosts, Tim Southee (2 for 36) was the pick of the bowlers, while Kyle Mills (1 for 42) provided an able support.
Kane Williamson (1/26) and Hamish Bennett (1/67), too, picked up wicket apiece but the latter was very expensive.
In the absence of Dhawan, Virat Kohli came out to open the innings with Rohit Sharma. India got off to a slow start.
In the fourth over with only five runs on the board, Kohli (2) got frustrated and went after a short delivery from Southee, mistiming his pull and caught at midwicket by Neesham.
Rahane (3), too, moved up the order, coming in at number three, but in the 9th over, pulled straight to Southee at fine-leg off Mills.
Things were looking bad for India at 22/2 but Rayudu, who walked in to bat for the first time in an ODI since the tour of Zimbabwe in mid-2013, together with Rohit, re-built the innings.
But once set, the two batsmen sped up their run-scoring, bringing up their 50-run partnership in the 22nd over.
Rohit cut loose with a flurry of boundaries, hitting three fours and three sixes, as he brought up his 21st ODI fifty off 72 balls. India also crossed the 100-run mark.
Rayudu too sped up, hitting two sixes and three fours in his 58-ball stay at the wicket. The batsmen put on 79 runs for the third wicket as the run-rate shot up to 4.60 per over, with the last 41 runs of their pairing coming in 32 balls.
Rayudu (37) got out in the 26th over, becoming the third batsman on the day to lose his wicket to a short delivery.
Dhoni walked in and hit Williamson for a six straightaway. Rohit too carried on but did not curb his strokes. He hit three more fours and another six, going up to 79 runs (94b, 6X4, 4X6), when disaster struck. He opened the bat-face to a Williamson delivery going down legside, and Ronchi latched on to it in his second chance.
Troubles were compounded when nine runs later, just as India crossed the 150-run mark in the 33rd over, Auckland’s hero Ashwin (5) was out caught at third man, cutting a short and wide delivery from Southee.
Eden Park’s other hero joined his skipper and together with Dhoni resurrected the Indian innings.
Their first challenge was not to lose any more wickets, especially in the batting powerplay and they scored 24 in those five overs. Jadeja was more aggressive with Dhoni looking to stay on till the end.
As the innings entered the last 10 overs, both opened up gradually, playing attacking strokes and looking for big runs.
The tactic worked very well for India as they brought up their 50-run partnership off only 55 balls in the 43rd over, and then Dhoni completed his second consecutive half-century — and his 54th in ODIs overall — off 58 balls.
While Jadeja also brought up his eighth ODI fifty off only 46 balls.
They made sure that India didn’t lose a wicket for the last 16.5 overs at a run-rate of 7.54 per over, as Dhoni finished the innings off in style, hitting a massive six off Neeshan and staying unbeaten on 79 (73b, six fours, four sixes), while Jadeja was 62 not out (54 balls, eight fours, two sixes).