By Shrikant Shankar
India were outplayed by New Zealand in the fourth One-Day International (ODI), as they lost by seven wickets. India batted first and posted a reasonably competitive total of 278 for five in their 50 overs. The wicket at Seddon Park in Hamilton was a little bit slower than the one used in the second ODI at the same venue. The track was more in support of the spinners and India had the better set of players for it. But in the end, New Zealand cruised to victory thanks to Ross Taylor’s unbeaten century.
New Zealand also sealed the series and now lead 3-0 with one match to go. Let us look at some of the key battles that separated the men from the boys in this match on January 28, 2014.
The captains — Brendon McCullum vs MS Dhoni
MS Dhoni decided to change things a bit on Tuesday, as he won the toss and elected to bat first. There were a few changes as well in Stuart Binny and Ambati Rayudu coming in for Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina. Most of the captain’s ability is judged on the basis of what one does on the field. Binny was selected as a genuine all-rounder. It was just unfortunate that Binny could not bat in the Indian innings. But he also bowled only one over. He gave eight runs away, but Dhoni could have trusted him with a couple more. What was surprising was that Dhoni gave Rayudu three overs. Even the commentators mentioned that they have actually never seen him bowl in any form of competitive cricket. He gave 23 runs from his three overs and exerted no pressure.
Brendon McCullum outdid Dhoni on the day as most of his changes worked. New Zealand went into the match without Corey Anderson and Mitchell McClenaghan. Anderson has been consistent in scoring quick runs and taking a lot of wickets. McCleneghan has been New Zealand’s best bowler and main wicket-taker in the last one year. James Neesham and Kyle Mills were brought into the team. McCullum bowled out the overs of his main strike bowlers before the end overs, but still managed his resources quite well. They might have conceded a few extra runs in the end, but it wasn’t many.
Dhoni is seen as a captain who waits for a mistake from the opposition and once it comes, he will take charge of the situation. But on this insistence, Dhoni could not capitalise after New Zealand had lost wickets in their innings. McCullum seemed more proactive and used his brother Nathan to good effect. Nathan only conceded 44 runs in 10 overs, despite going wicket-less.
Comparing starts made by both teams
If one compares the starts both teams had, New Zealand definitely had the better. India had scored only 28 runs with the loss of two wickets after 10 overs. Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane had departed and so far an out-of-form Rohit Sharma and inexperienced Ambati Rayudu were left to build the innings from scratch. This ensured that India were in no position to impose their dominance on the New Zealand bowlers in the middle overs.
The New Zealand openers, on the other hand, got off to a flier. Martin Guptill and Jesse Ryder found the boundary with ease and were aided by some loose bowling by the Indian bowlers. They raced to 54 in only seven overs. The duo were dismissed quickly after that, but a platform was set for the middle-order batsmen to carry forward.
India had one really good partnership between Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja. They added an unbeaten stand of 127 runs for the sixth wicket, which helped India to a competitive total. The rate also was at a healthy 7.54 runs an over. There were two other fine partnerships were between Rohit and Rayudu (79); and Rohit and Dhoni (41). Despite stitching a fine partnership, Rayudu lost his wicket when he was set and needed to kick-on with his innings. The same could be said of the second partnership as well.
New Zealand only lost three wickets, so, there were limited number of partnerships, but most of them were very good ones. As mentioned earlier, the opening stand was worth 54 and came at a fair click. The third-wicket stand between Kane Williamson and Taylor was worth 130 runs. They began slowly and just took the singles on offer in the middle overs to keep in-touch with the scoring-rate. Once they settled in, the duo began to score freely with boundaries hit regularly. Then captain McCullum joined Taylor and started tentatively. But he accelerated in the end and finished off the match in style with a six. Their stand was worth 92 runs.
New Zealand’s bowlers being effective
Only eight wickets fell in the whole match. India lost five wickets and New Zealand lost three. So, one would imagine that the bowlers had it tough. But this match saw the lowest score of the entire series, as India posted 278 runs. But even in such a situation, bowlers can win matches and this is where the New Zealand’s bowlers trumped India’s. Their two lead bowlers in Kyle Mills and Tim Southee conceded only 78 runs in a combined 20 overs and took early wickets, which sent the Indian innings on the back-foot. In the end, Mills took one wicket and Southee took two.
India’s main bowlers were their spinners — Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin. The duo gave away a combined 74 runs in their 20 overs, but the biggest difference was that they went wicket-less. The Indian seamers also were clueless and this ensured that the New Zealand batsmen did not lose many wickets in the middle. The bowling from the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammad Shami and Varun Aaron was at times like amateurs, as they either bowled too wide or on the leg side.
This Indian team is considered to be one of the best fielding units, especially in their own history. But there is still a lot of work to do. The bowlers in the Indian team are poor fielders. Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar, Shami and Aaron were quite poor throughout the New Zealand innings. There were a string of misfields on the boundary line in the first few overs itself. Singles suddenly changed to fours and momentum was lost. Even Kohli gave an unnecessary overthrow that raced away to the boundary, despite Dhoni shouting ‘easy easy’. McCullum also offered a chance during the later stages of the match, as he skied a shot. Rayudu and Jadeja converged and both got their hands on it, only for the ball to drop.
The New Zealand fielders were far better. James Neesham took a comfortable catch to dismiss Kohli early on. Southee took a good catch at fine-leg to dismiss Rahane. Even the big Hamish Bennett took a tough diving catch at third-man to dismiss Ashwin. The ground fielding also was very good and they stopped quite a few strokes which could have resulted in boundaries.
(Shrikant Shankar is a writer/reporter at CricketCountry.com. Previously he has done audio commentary for various matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20 for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)
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