Clinical bowling, twin fifties help India square series

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Karthik remained unbeaten on 64 in the chase.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar led a clinical bowling performance, which was backed by half-centuries from Shikhar Dhawan and Dinesh Karthik as India levelled the three-match ODI series with a six-wicket victory over New Zealand at the MCA stadium in Pune on Wednesday (October 25). Bhuvneshwar bagged three wickets while Jasprit Bumrah and Yuzvendra Chahal bagged two apiece to restrict New Zealand to 230 for 9. The hosts then rode on measured fifties from Dhawan (68 off 84) and Karthik (64* off 92) to cross the line with four overs to spare.

Rohit Sharma was conscious of deliveries outside off as he began in a watchful manner while Dhawan eased into the role of an aggressor, dealing in regular boundaries to help India off to a positive start in the chase. The opening stand, though, didn’t last beyond the fifth over as Rohit, who had resisted the temptation of playing the flowing drives, fell to an innocuous delivery by Southee when he failed to keep a flick down. His opening partner’s dismissal didn’t dissuade Dhawan from going after the bowlers, which he did with good effect while Virat Kohli continued from where he left off in the previous game, with the only difference being that he scored a quick rate right from the outset.

While New Zealand had earlier failed to capitalise on the short boundaries, the Indians made good use of it with a couple of sixes just about clearing the ropes, which included one mistimed pull by Kohli off Boult. Apart from finding the fence every now and then, Dhawan and Kohli also rotated the strike well and set the tone for the chase with their well-paced partnership that had an equal measure of hits all around the park along with nimble-footed running between the wickets which helped raise a brisk half-century stand.

Things were moving along swimmingly for the home team when Kohli fell against the run of play, trying to drive on the up to a Colin de Grandhomme delivery, only to edge it to Tom Latham who was standing up to the stumps. This brought Karthik to the crease with the latest entrant in India’s middle order puzzle getting one more opportunity to live up to his credentials. While he assisted Dhawan in getting India back on track in the chase, the left-hander reversed a caught-behind decision before registering his maiden fifty-plus score against New Zealand in ODIs.

A half-century stand was the next milestone, which was achieved when Dhawan read a slower delivery from Southee and duly dispatched it over the long-on fence for his second maximum. However, it was a tame end to a fine innings when he chipped a simple catch off Adam Milne to cover and the wicket provided New Zealand an avenue to claw back. However, it was only a momentary respite for the visitors as Hardik Pandya took over from where Dhawan had left, while Karthik continued to anchor the innings en route a 76-ball fifty. While Pandya’s innings was cut short when he top-edged a sweep off Mitchell Santner, Karthik and Dhoni remained till the end to complete the formalities, with the former sealing the deal in the 46th over with a four.

Earlier, amid all the unwanted controversy surrounding the pitch and its curator, who was suspended with immediate effect following a sting operation, the match got underway as scheduled with an unchanged New Zealand side opting to bat. While Martin Guptill and Colin Munro began in a positive fashion, the Indian new ball bowlers were posing a few questions as well and their persistence reaped rich rewards for the hosts early in the innings. Guptill struck Jasprit Bumrah for two successive fours before Munro went over long-off for a stylish six off Bhuvneshwar. But the bowler came back strongly with a delivery that moved away from Guptill and clipped the outside edge on the way to the ‘keeper’s hands. Kane Williamson failed to make an impact for the second time in as many games, trapped leg-before by Bumrah before Bhuvneshwar bowled Munro off an inside edge to leave the visitors reeling at 27 for 3 after seven overs.

Yet again, Taylor and Latham were called upon for damage control and they led the revival by laying the platform for a partnership to blossom. However, the recovery was only brief as Taylor failed in his attempt to take on a short delivery from Pandya. Meanwhile, Latham was handed a reprieve on 29, put down by Dhoni off Yuzvendra Chahal, and made use of the opportunity as he again endeavoured to sweep New Zealand’s woes away, and received good support from Henry Nicholls at the other end. Latham, though, attempted one sweep too many and was bowled round his legs by Axar Patel, who was included in the eleven in place of Kuldeep Yadav.

Colin de Grandhomme, who walked in at No. 7, took the attack to the spinners, who started to leak runs towards the latter stages of an extended spell. Wristy shots to the mid-wicket region was the feature of de Grandhomme’s counter-attacking innings while he also displayed his big-hitting abilities when he sent a Chahal delivery well over the long-on fence. His outing could have been cut short had Jadhav not missed a direct hit with the right-hander well short of the crease at the keeper’s end. However, losing wickets against the run of play seemed to be New Zealand’s template as Bhuvneshwar went through Nicholls’s defence to end a threatening partnership worth 47 runs.

The spinners were reintroduced into the attack a short while later and Santner decided to take on Axar, who conceded 12 off his final over to finish with figures of 1 for 54. Chahal though managed to inflict more hurt. De Grandhomme failed in his execution while trying to go over cover while Adam Milne was trapped in front as the legspinner picked up wickets off successive deliveries in the 44th over. Santner and Tim Southee’s stubborn back-end effort provided some useful runs to New Zealand’s total as they helped their team past 200, with Southee finishing with an unbeaten 25, although his effort did not make much of a difference to the eventual outcome of the game.

Brief scores: New Zealand 230/9 in 50 overs (Henry Nicholls 42, Colin de Grandhomme 41; Bhuvneshwar Kumar 3-45) lost to India 232/4 in 46 overs (Shikhar Dhawan 68, Dinesh Karthik 64*; Adam Milne 1-21) by 6 wickets.