India registered a last-over win against New Zealand through some magnificent death bowling by Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah as the hosts restricted the Kiwis to 331/7. While the death bowling was the highlight of the match, India also won some mini-battles on their way to 2-1 series victory.
Virat Kohli uses his trigger movement to counter outside off-stump balls
Virat Kohli’s struggle against the balls pitched outside the off stump is an established fact. In the first ODI of this series and the previous games in the Australia series, bowlers have often exploited that chink in his armour to some extent. But today, like a true maestro, the Indian skipper played those deliveries with effortless ease, unlike other times. Kohli had decided to take his stance on middle stump and his trigger movement allowed him to move towards the off. To counter the wide balls outside the off stump, one either needs to leave alone the balls or gets closer to them as possible. Kohli today went after these balls and took the profit of Kane Williamson’s defensive field-set on the off-side to get going. He also didn’t leave any clue for the opposition to understand his tactics as he eliminated his trigger movement completely from time to time and stayed inside the line a lot to work the ball on both sides of the pitch. While the Kiwi bowlers were intelligent enough to mix up the deliveries, the 28-year-old started playing the ball really late to make sure that his balance remained intact as that might have resulted in missing the line on previous occasions. The clever tactics, in the end, reaped rich dividends as he scored almost 53% of runs on the off side only. It was also to Kohli’s credit that he managed to do so without trying to take the centre stage in front of a rampaging Rohit Sharma. On the other hand, the Kiwi bowlers seemed like they didn’t have any plan B against the Indian skipper.
Boult card fails for second consecutive time in the series
Trent Boult spearheaded the Kiwi bowling line-up in the first match in Mumbai and removed the openers with the new ball, before claiming the wickets of MS Dhoni and Hardik Pandya in his later spells, to restrict India to a paltry score in modern-day cricket, 280. His ability to swing or seam with the new ball and extract an equal amount of reverse swing with the older one is well documented, but somehow, he failed to replicate the same today and was at the receiving end of some sublime and audacious batting by the Indian captain and vice-caption combo. After Rohit Sharma slashed Tim Southee’s short and wide outside off ball to point boundary to get going, Boult decided to push his length a bit fuller, but that in the end, proved costly for him as the Indian duo were more than happy to exploit them. Although Williamson brought him back in short bursts at the middle and death overs, the left-
Dhoni hand-holds bowlers to guide India to an unlikely win
With only 35 runs needed off the last four overs and six wickets remaining at hand, it was New Zealand’s game to lose from thereon and anything other that was going to be a miracle. But the man, who personified his legacy as the “captain cool” during his days as the skipper, decided to take the centre stage through his immaculate calmness, which instantly rubbed on Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. At the end, Bumrah, too, didn’t lose his zen-like composure by extracting whatever little help a flat Green Park pitch could give him by hitting it hard and mixing them with his slower off-cutter, which didn’t allow the Kiwi batsmen to open their arms and aim for the skies. He was brilliantly supported by his partner-in-crime, Bhuvneshwar, who despite having the worst day in recent times, managed to pull things back by bowling Henry Nicholls out towards the end. Taking no credit away from both the pacers – they executed it to perfection and were the main stars in the victory – it was also Dhoni, who was the picture of calmness to help them not to be bogged down by the pressure.
Where could New Zealand have won?
Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s off-day nearly cost India the match
While chasing a score as big as 339, it's imperative to have a strong start to the innings and both Colin Munro and Martin Guptill did exactly that. They went for the onslaught from the word go and it was the perfect approach against a potential wicket-taker like Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who right now has been enjoying the form of his life. Instead of the age-old practice of playing out a few dot balls, the duo decided to move around the wicket to unsettle the bowler and despite Guptill’s dismissal, Munro and Williamson continuously stepped out of the crease, which benefitted them from the field restriction. Since there was little movement in the air and off the pitch and the northern India encountering a lot of dew, he failed to maintain a tight line and gave away 51 runs in his first five overs handing over the initiative to the visitors. Virat Kohli’s rigid tactics of not giving any overs to the spinners within the first power play didn't help India’s cause at all. Had India lost today, it would have been the main reason for the same.
India’s inability to break partnerships
When New Zealand management decided to move Colin Munro to the top of the order, it was evident that the visitors were trying to take lessons from their last visit to India. They wanted the fire at the top of the order and thus promoting their most explosive batsman of the team made perfect sense. That gave them a chance to bat Tom Latham at the middle-order - he mastered during his last tour to India. He had topped the run-charts for his side with 244 runs that had two fifties - thus allowing their best batsman against spin bowling to boss the middle-over passage of the play. Albeit late, India became successful to dismiss Munro, when the game was still evenly poised, but they failed to set up Latham and Taylor and consequently, the former easily swept the spinners without any problems – pretty much like he did in the first ODI in Mumbai. His technique forced the Indian spinners to change their length, but it was too little too late, especially on a day when the team’s strike bowler went for 77 runs in his first 8 overs at an economy rate of 9.83. Had India managed to pick a couple more wickets during the middle-overs, the match would have been a foregone conclusion then only.