The chance of a series whitewash now gone, a depleted India will nevertheless look to end their five-match ODI series against New Zealand with a win as the teams gear up for the final match of the series at Wellington on Sunday (February 3). Trent Boult taking advantage of conditions that assisted swing bowling gave the Kiwis something to smile about, but only a win in the final ODI will see them end the series with their heads held high after India sealed the series at Mount Maunganui. It didn’t help that the visitors were missing both Virat Kohli (rested for the remainder of the tour) and MS Dhoni (out injured) but the disappointment from the Indian camp was palpable. Seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar said after the match that the loss served as a ‘reality check’ for India while stand-in skipper Rohit Sharma said that the team’s performance with the bat was ‘one of the worst performances for a long time’. The series is already in the bag and it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect more experimentation from India in the final match as well, but the previous encounter did bring up some old concerns.
Once Rohit and Shikhar Dhawan were dismissed cheaply, the middle order failed to provide much resistance; India’s highest scorers on the day were Hardik Pandya (16) and Yuzvendra Chahal (17). Both Ambati Rayudu and Dinesh Karthik went without troubling the scorers whereas Kedhar Jadhav added just a solitary run to the total before departing. Debutant Shubman Gill could also only score 9 runs, but perhaps the bigger concern for India will be the manner in which Rayudu, Karthik and Jadhav folded since these players are expected to be a part of the middle-order in the World Cup. “It was about applying ourselves. Once you get in, things will start to look easier. We played some bad shots as well. It's always challenging when the ball is swinging,” Rohit had said after the game. India might not expect pitches that offer that much assistance to seamers in the World Cup, but you never know with the English pitches.
In any case, the middle order would do well to heed Rohit’s advice and get themselves in no matter the pitch conditions before looking to take on the bowlers. However, given that the conditions on offer at Wellington will be different, the poor showing at Hamilton could well be put down as a one-off. Boult had admitted after the previous game that pulling one back in the series was satisfying but the hosts go into their last game with issues of their own to sort. Boult stole the show at Hamilton but the Kiwis know their batting will have to be better than what it has been throughout the series if they are to end the series on a high. They failed to bat their full quota of overs in the first three games. Frustratingly for them, many batsmen have managed to get starts but rarely have they been able to convert them into a big score.
Many had expected the Kiwis to present a stiff challenge to India after Kohli’s men had dominated the Tests and ODIs in Australia, but the side that finished the previous World Cup as runners-up have looked ordinary so far in the series. They will also likely be without the services of Martin Guptill, who aggravated his lower back during fielding practice. A call on his availability will be taken tomorrow morning. Colin Munro has rejoined the squad as a back-up. Nevertheless, Kane Williamson will be hoping his side can put their recent poor form behind them. Another win against India would be a good step in that direction.
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First Published: February 2, 2019, 5:35 PM IST