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India, New Zealand women head into ODI series decider

India, New Zealand women head into ODI series decider

New Zealand have been terrific this series, showing great levels of competence in alien conditions against an Indian side that has played all its last eight international games in Bangalore.

It has been a series that has gone back and forth, with both teams refusing to relent. And it's perhaps only fitting that the fifth and final One-Day International between India Women and New Zealand Women on Wednesday (July 8) at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium will be the decider.

New Zealand have been terrific this series, showing great levels of competence in alien conditions against an Indian side that has played all its last eight international games in Bangalore.

Barring the first ODI in which they were skittled for a paltry 125 in pursuit of 143, the batting has mostly been consistent for New Zealand. They did lose seven wickets in a chase of 164 in the second ODI but followed it up with a fairly comfortable chase of 186 in the fourth to take the lead, and posted a reasonable 220 all out batting first in the previous game.

New Zealand have mostly had solid contributions from at least two of their top five, although they have shown a tendency to lose wickets in a cluster later in the innings. They had a big opening stand, of 125, in the third game but otherwise, have lost wickets early every time and ridden on contributions from the middle order. Sophie Devine at No. 5 has been the most consistent and her tally of 163 runs at 40.75 including a highest of 89 has made her a steadying presence.

With the ball, New Zealand have largely been consistent, the last game where they allowed India to chase down 221 with relative ease being the lone blip. Lea Tahuhu and Devine, their new-ball pair, along with Leigh Kasperek, the offspinner, have shared the bulk of the wickets, while Suzie Bates and Morna Nielsen have had good returns as well.

Questions had been asked of India's top five, comprising Smriti Mandhana, Thirush Kamini, Poonam Raut, Mithali Raj, the captain, and Harmanpreet Kaur, all of whom have gone without a century since 2013.

But the detractors were proved wrong in the last game, where several of that core group made a telling contribution in a record chase. Mithali anchored the innings with an unbeaten 81, during the course of which she went past the 5000-run mark, the second woman cricketer to do so. Having been a driving force for several years, her return to form, coupled with her experience, should stand India in good stead.

India will also take heart from the fact that their batting finally clicked as one unit, as opposed to past games where one or two of them were mainly left to do the heavy lifting.

Rajeshwari Gayakwad and Ekta Bisht have come good with their left-arm spin. Gayakwad has six wickets from four games at 18.33. While Bisht has been among the wickets every time she has been thrown the ball, she missed out on the last game, although Poonam Yadav, the legspinner who replaced Bisht, proved to be expensive. India have also been boosted by Harmanpreet's part-time legspin, which has come in handy.

The pitch - the one that was used for the first ODI which India won - has a tinge of green and will assist the seamers. But it's still a pretty flat deck and if the batters show application, plenty of runs will be on offer.

Familiarity and momentum-wise, India have the advantage. But this series has seen teams bounce back on more than once occasion, and both will be fully aware of that.

Both teams trained long and hard during a full session on Tuesday. While India were the more chirpy and cheerful, the New Zealand outfit was a study in contrast as it wore a far more serious look and had several lengthy discussions.

first published:July 07, 2015, 20:06 IST