Within a gap of 12 months, New Zealand ran India close and came up short. Last year, it was the spinners who undid New Zealand’s effort prior to it. A 79-run score from 63/2 ruined the Kiwis’ effort in the four matches preceding it. Fast forward to Sunday, in Kanpur, New Zealand once again pushed India but this time there was no embarrassing collapse. This time the Kiwis ran even closer and yet again they came up short – by a narrow six run margin. The win takes India’s tally under Virat Kohli to seven series and keeps the side unbeaten at home in a bilateral series since 2016.
When India scored 337 runs courtesy a 200 run stand between Kohli and Rohit Sharma which saw them score 113 runs and 147 runs respectively, it looked like New Zealand’s sorry record of never winning an ODI series in India would continue. The record in deciders, too, didn’t give the visitors anything to cheer about.
A mammoth target to chase set forth an interesting battle – will the New Zealand batting of the first ODI turn up or the second ODI? One in Mumbai produced a confident show while the one in Pune – except for some hope in the middle – collapsed. As things transpired, the third ODI in Kanpur saw mixture of both.
Colin Munro got the ball rolling in the first over itself by spanking Bhuvneshwar Kumar – who had a day to forget – for 19 runs. His attempt at changing things, by bowling round-the-wicket didn’t materialise as his effort of bouncing Munro away only resulted in him going for 51 runs by the time he had bowled five overs.
At the other end, though, Jasprit Bumrah kept the flow of runs in check extracting little from a batting haven that was the Green Park pitch. He struck first to dismiss Martin Guptill for his 50th ODI. In the process he became the second quickest Indian bowler to 50 ODI wickets – just behind Ajit Agarkar.
New Zealand remained on track, with Munro and Kane Williamson adding 109 for the second wicket. They moved the score to 153/1 by the 25th over and remained on course to chasing what was a stiff target.
As New Zealand looked to be cruising, Yuzvendra Chahal struck to dismiss both the set Munro and Williamson to tip the game once again in India’s favour. As Munro went for a slog hit, Chahal’s delivery spin in and had him bowled through the gate. Williamson, on the other hand, tried to go for a sweep but handed a simple catch to MS Dhoni after getting a top edge.
Tom Latham entered the picture after Munro fell and stitched two crucial knocks with Ross Taylor and Henry Nicholls to keep the scorecard ticking and the Kiwis in the fray with the target well within sights. Bhuvneshwar ended the Latham-Nicholls stand to bring about a nervous close and begin the moment where the game turned – the final three overs. With New Zealand needing 32 runs from 19 balls, Nicholls departed and it gave India a sniff of victory.
Arguably New Zealand’s biggest hitter Colin de Grandhomme didn’t have his day either as his moment of indecision from a Bumrah yorker resulted in Latham falling short at the non-striker’s end and some exchange of laughter between MS Dhoni and the seamer – mostly due to the fact that Bumrah could have gone on to take off the bails but the nerves resulted in him hitting the stumps from a distance. He continued to find the right areas to force New Zealand into the corner with 15 required in the final over. But with the form Bumrah had been in, it was never going to be an easy task and he held fort – as the skipper expected him to.