After another top-order collapse, Ambati Rayudu and later Hardik Pandya propelled India to a sizeable total at Wellington with the former scoring an invaluable 90 to lift India from 18/4. Pandya's cameo took India to 252 before a well-rounded bowling display helped them defend the total and complete a 4-1 series win.
Here is our report card from the Wellington ODI.
Rayudu did not just arrest the top-order collapse, but also stitched together two brilliant stands with Vijay Shankar and Kedar Jadhav respectively to lift India out of the abyss. He was brutal when the ball was short and played with conviction right through the innings before falling ten runs short of a ton in the 44th over. With this innings, Rayudu took a step closer to sealing the No 4 spot.
Henry produced a peach of a delivery to send Rohit Sharma back early on and followed it up with the wicket of Shubman Gill to peg India back further. He relentlessly tested Indian batsmen with the new ball and ended his opening spell with a terrific figure of 7-1-11-2. Henry returned in the death overs to prise out Rayudu and Jadhav and ended his day with match figures of 4/35.
Pandya sizzled at Wellington in an all-round role, smashing a 22-ball 45 before picking up the wickets of Ross Taylor and Mitchell Santner to pour water on hopes of Kiwis. Pandya walked in to bat with India at 190/6 in the 44th over and exhibited some spectacular shots during his stay at the wicket. He smashed Todd Astle, who is generally very good in the final overs, for a hat-trick of sixes and hit two more maximums before falling in the penultimate over. He took India to a defendable total with his late overs' antics.
Chahal loves taking charge of the spin department and with no Kuldeep Yadav in the side, he had the opportunity. With the New Zealand top-order wiped out, Chahal was tasked with the responsibility of breaking the Kane Williamson-Tom Latham stand and though Jadhav was the one to break it, the leggie removed the latter by trapping him in front off the sweep soon after. He added the wickets of Colin de Grandhomme and Astle to finish with figures of 3/41.
After a five-for at Hamilton, Boult was yet again right on the money with the new ball at the Westpac stadium. Boult removed Shikhar Dhawan early on before cleaning up MS Dhoni with a brilliant ball to finish his six-over opening spell with figures of 12/2. He presented Rayudu a lifeline on 61 but took a wonderful catch to send back a rampaging Pandya in the death.
With a golden opportunity to stake claims for a World Cup spot, Shankar played himself in early on and showed remarkable composure. With Rayudu, Shankar put on 98 for the fifth wicket as India fought from 18/4 to 116/4. Just as Shankar looked set for a half-century, Rayudu ran him out by ignoring calls for wait and scampering down the pitch. Shankar obliged and went for a suicidal run to give Rayudu a life. He was tidy with the ball but wasn't used much after an initial burst.
Shami, after a short break, returned to the starting XI and immediately made an impact, dismissing Henry Nicholls and Colin Munro to peg New Zealand back early on. Shami's skiddy pace and back of a length deliveries proved to be handy on the Wellington pitch and he ended his initial spell with figures of 14/2 in five overs.
Neesham removed a fiery Pandya in the death overs but not before he conceded 15 runs in the penultimate over. He was economical in the middle overs when India were rebuilding but thereafter did little to enhance his reputation as a handy bowling option. He was superb with the bat, like in the Sri Lankan series, and cranked up the run rate with a 32-ball 44. The Kiwis were in the game while Neesham was at the crease but lack of awareness about the whereabouts of the ball cost him big while running as Dhoni ran him out.
Jadhav was at his cheeky best as he, alongside Rayudu, gave India the platform for a final flourish. He rotated strike cleverly, hit three fours and set himself up for a big haul in the last few overs but an off-cutter from Henry crashed in to his stumps in the 46th over. In the absence of Kuldeep, Jadhav stepped up as second spinner and grabbed the big wicket of Williamson, finishing with figures of 1/34 in seven overs.
Munro was used to keep the Indian batsmen silent in the middle overs and kept his end quite tidy with wily pace variations, cutters and knuckleball. He bowled a stump-to-stump line and mixed up his variations to restrict scoring. Before the 15-run final over, Munro's figures read 9-0-32-0. After a mini stint in the Super Smash during the small break, Munro appeared to have regained some of his lost touch with the bat, and clubbed Bhuvneshwar Kumar over mid-wicket for six. But his luck soon ran out as he chopped on to his stumps off Shami's back of a length delivery.
Astle was barely used until the death overs as the quicker bowlers did their job to perfection against India's top-order. But with a well-set Rayudu and Jadhav threatening to go big in the death overs, Williamson handed the ball to Astle. The leggie was clever in changing up his pace and bowled according to the dimensions of the ground, not giving the batsmen anything short with the horizontal boundaries less than 65 meters. However, his superb effort in the death overs was overshadowed by Pandya, who slogged him for a hat-trick of sixes in the 47th over.
Bhuvneshwar was smashed for a six by Munro early on and was largely ineffective in his early spell while Shami celebrated two wickets. Bhuvneshwar returned for a couple more overs in the death and wrapped New Zealand's innings with a wicket. His new ball spells are surely going to come under more scrutiny now that Shami is in good rhythm.
Latham hung around with Williamson to rebuild hosts' innings after they lost three early wickets. The southpaw, who made the switch to middle-order because of his ability to play spin, was assured against Chahal and Jadhav as the runs kept coming, even though at a slow pace. Well-settled at 37 off 49 balls, Latham got out lbw trying to play a sweep shot against Chahal, forcing New Zealand to cope with another blow in the middle overs immeditaley after the fall of Williamson.
Williamson has been pretty unlike Williamson in this series with poor shot selection at crucial junctures. And once again committed the same folly when he looked to hoick Jadhav over cow corner, only to gift a catch to the deep fielder. At 39 off 73 balls, Williamson had done the hard yards but failed to capitalise on it, losing his wicket away in desperation.
Colin de Grandhomme
De Grandhomme wasn't as effective as he was at Hamilton and although he kept things tidy for a while, Rayudu blasted him for back-to-back fours to bring up his half-century. A bowler who is highly dependent on conditions, De Grandhomme might well be competing with Neesham for a place in the XI at the World Cup. De Grandhomme might also want to work on his skills with the bat given that he hasn't been able to do his job batting lower down the order while Neesham has been picture-perfect.
Santner had little to do with the ball as the Black Caps seamers ruled at Wellington. The left-arm spinner was economical but would have hoped for a bigger role with the ball stopping a touch on the batsmen. New Zealand and Williamson perhaps missed a trick by not using him more. He hung around with the bat and could have perhaps done a better job at the end but threw his wicket away with a lousy shot.
With Rohit's wicket falling early on, Dhawan ought to have stuck around, but the flashy opener instead chose to upper cut Boult and gifted a catch to third man. With a bigger ground and lesser bouncer off the surface, Dhawan's shot was suicidal and untimely. India would hope he stays away from such shenanigans in near future.
Gill was possibly not in India's World Cup plans until this series but the fact that they chose to make Dinesh Karthik sit out while keeping Gill in the side means India could take the 19-year old to England. However, Gill got out to a soft dismissal, spooning a catch to short cover off an innocuous length ball from Henry.
Henry produced a terrific delivery to send Rohit back in the fifth over, the angled-in delivery moved away late as Rohit's feet went no where in the forward push. The Indian opener, yet again circumspect against the moving ball, got a corker up front but the lack of foot movement against a moving ball is a worrying aspect of Rohit's game.
Dhoni survived a close leg before wicket review off first ball he faced as the Kiwi seamers targeted his pads early on. Boult moved the second slip to short mid-wicket and looked to bluff him with one that angled across the stumps but Dhoni was careful in his leave. Next ball, though, Boult prised him out with a spectacular inswinger to leave India reeling at 18/4, with their crisis man back in the hut.
With New Zealand in dire straits at 37/2, Taylor, on the back of a fine innings in the previous game, played a nip-backer from Pandya all around to be trapped in front for one. Taylor chose not to review but replays later revealed the ball would have missed the stumps much to New Zealand's dismay.
Nicholls snugly fit into his new role as an opener in the previous match but with the surface not really encouraging horizontal bat shots, Nicholls went for the pull shot off Shami without really getting on top of the bounce and skied a catch to mid-on. After a superb 2018, Nicholls is finding it tough to get going against quality bowling and New Zealand will be worried over his form.
Rating chart: 10-9: Excellent, 8-7: Good, 6-5: Average, 4-3: Poor, 2-1: Very poor