So if the option of a Super Over doesn’t exist, New Zealand do find their way over the line.
After a week of barely-believable bottling that allowed India to romp their way to the first-ever 5-0 clean sweep of a T20I series, the Kiwis finally got themselves going at home by making a winning start to the ODI leg at Hamilton.
After being asked to bat, India rode on the efforts of Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul to amass 347/4 — their sixth-highest ODI total outside Asia, and their second-highest in New Zealand — and 31 overs into the run-chase, with the hosts still requiring another 170 for victory, Virat Kohli’s side appeared well on track to continue their 100 percent record on the tour.
But the heroics of Ross Taylor and stand-in captain Tom Latham, coupled with more than a handful of errors from India, allowed the Black Caps to eventually saunter to the finish line with 11 balls to spare; this becomes New Zealand’s highest successful chase in ODIs, and the second-highest total India have conceded to lose after setting a target.
Let’s examine where things went wrong for India at Seddon Park.
You don’t drop Taylor, not in an ODI
New Zealand’s most seasoned campaigner has had to bear the brunt of the T20I combustion last week, with several questions raised over his failure to finish things off on repeated occasions through the five-match contest. In the 50-over game though, Ross is quite the boss.
Since 2017, with the caveat of at least 1,000 runs in the format, no man other than Kohli can boast of a higher ODI average — Taylor’s unbeaten century on Wednesday takes his mark to 66.45, even ahead of Rohit Sharma. Over the years, he’s also held a burgeoning reputation of being the man for the big chases for the Kiwis. New Zealand have now chased totals above 335 four times in ODIs, and Taylor’s scores in these four games read 117, 11, 181* and 109*.
Needless to say, if and when he offers a chance, you don’t let it slip — which is exactly what Kuldeep Yadav did, as he made an absolute meal of what really shouldn’t have been more than a regulation effort following a top-edged sweep off Ravindra Jadeja.
Taylor was batting on 10 off 16 at the point, and New Zealand could have been 122/3 in 22.3 overs had the catch been taken. Catches win matches, or something like that.
Faltering fielding (finally) comes to haunt India
You’d be kidding yourself if you didn’t see it coming. India’s fielding — something they’ve taken great pride in over recent years — has seen an alarming dip in recent months.
They dropped as many as five catches in a single T20I against West Indies, but were bailed out by a Kohli special in a 200+ chase. They went on to drop another two catches each in the next two games as well, enough to prompt Kohli into admitting that the faltering standards in the field were “there for everyone to see and for us to improve on”.
More recently, even in the 5-0 sweep of the T20Is in New Zealand, India’s collective fielding effort was quite cat-on-a-hot-tin-roof. In the fourth game, they contrived to drop Tim Seifert — the opposition’s best batsman on the day — on four separate occasions, including two misses in the Super Over.
Individual brilliance kept them ahead on the whole, but poor fielding becomes exponentially tougher to mask when the sample size increases from 120 balls to 300.
At Hamilton, it wasn’t just the Kuldeep drop; sluggish limbs in the outfield allowed New Zealand several bonus runs, and Mohammed Shami had the ignominious ‘India Gate’ moment he (and the fielding coach) wouldn’t want to see again.
What will irk the most, is that the continuing faux pas are coming in an aspect of the game that is very much one of the “controllables” the captain always speaks about.
Bowling bafflingly wide off the mark
Fielding wasn’t the only controllable India failed to control at Seddon Park on Wednesday. Extras — another aspect India have held a fairly firm grip on in recent years — can be another one of those small-yet-sizeable contributors to the outcome of 50-over games, and India had a rare shocker on that count too.
India conceded 24 wides in the series-opener — you would have to go back to 2007 for the last instance of an Indian team spraying 20 or more wides in an ODI.
Incredibly, Jasprit Bumrah (whose noose on extras has been exceptionally good since you-know-when) led the way, leaking nine wides in total. Shami wasn’t quite far behind with six.
This facet, to be fair, could be written off as a one-off; on the day, though, it did prove considerably costly.
Latham & Co sweep their way past spin
The leading pacers were off the mark, but New Zealand did have another perennial threat to deal with — India’s spinners. Jadeja had weaved a web around the Kiwis in the T20Is (four wickets in three matches, economy 5.90), and Kuldeep had gripped them like a plague the last time he was here (two four-fors in four ODIs).
The man leading them out in the absence of Kane Williamson, though, had had his share of success against Indian spinners with a very specific line of attack — and that strategy would be deployed with inch-perfect use by not only Tom Latham, but also the rest of the New Zealand batsmen.
Latham, and his men, were out to sweep Jadeja and Kuldeep out of their paths, and CricViz findings tell us just how well they succeeded. New Zealand swept 27 percent of balls bowled by India’s spin duo — since 2006, that’s the third-highest proportion in ODIs where spinners have bowled at least 20 overs.
Sweeps, be it conventional, slog or reverse, brought the Kiwis a total of 65 runs — never before has a team accrued more runs via sweeping in a single ODI innings.
To put things in perspective, 44 percent of the runs hit off Jadeja and Kuldeep — and nearly 20 percent of New Zealand’s total score on the day — came through that singular mode of operation.
Is Thakur over Saini the right idea in ODIs?
On a day when India’s four frontline bowling options — Bumrah, Shami, Jadeja, Kuldeep — had outings to forget, for varying reasons, it could be harsh to point a finger in the direction of the fifth. But did India help themselves with their selection?
Agreed, Shardul Thakur did have a good time in the T20Is, finishing top of the wicket charts with eight strikes in five games — but his economy rate of 9.81 was the worst for any regular bowler in either camp, and while that could be negated with wickets in a T20 contest, the same doesn’t hold true for the 50-over format. And the 28-year-old, while still at a very nascent stage of his international career, hasn’t exuded the most comforting light as an ODI bowler yet.
Wednesday was a serious hiding at Hamilton — 1/80 in nine overs, 22 of which came in one shape-shifting 40th over that meant New Zealand needed less than six-an-over from the final 10. Thakur has now leaked more than six per over in six out of nine innings — and more than eight per over in four out of those six outings.
The early evidence has been clear enough to know that when he does get the third pacer’s slot, he gets it more for his ability to contribute with the bat at number eight than for his original skill-set.
With India being increasingly and surprisingly spare in their usage of Kedar Jadhav (all of 16 overs bowled in his last 13 ODIs), they effectively go in to any ODI with only five bowling options. In such a scenario, especially given the pint-sized boundaries on offer in New Zealand, would it not be more prudent to pick a less-hittable and potentially more wicket-taking option in Navdeep Saini?
The last ODI series India played — against Australia, three weeks ago — saw them make the same Thakur choice for the series-opener, before opting to course-correct and blood Saini in for the two remaining, must-win games. An encore in New Zealand won’t be very surprising.
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