Ambati Rayudu, Hardik Pandya and MS Dhoni headline victory
This is India's 2nd straight away bilateral ODI series win (AFP Photo)

India‘s Sunday started in disarray and ended with a very cohesive effort in the field, the result of which was a 35-run win over New Zealand at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium to claim the ODI series 4-1. In early trouble at 18/4, India found two batsmen capable of absorbing the pressure in Vijay Shankar and Ambati Rayudu and a third, Hardik Pandya, who went berserk at the backed of the innings to get the total to 252.

New Zealand’s chase was set back by another top-order wobble before spin again had them in binds, with the MS Dhoni effect visible in two big dismissals.

Chasing 254, New Zealand lost three wicket inside the Powerplay overs, and then the vital pair of Kane Williamson and Tom Latham to spin in the span of 17 deliveries. Henry Nicholls (8) chipped the returning Mohammed Shami to midwicket, Colin Munro briefly showed glimpses of bygone batting form in getting to 24 before he dragged Shami onto the stumps and Ross Taylor (1) fell lbw to Pandya’s second ball when a sharp in-cutter had him beaten for movement.

Williamson laboured 73 balls for 39, and was out to a smart bit of field placement by Dhoni, who when Jadhav was bowling signalled to deep midwicket to move across. Out stepped Williamson to loft Jadhav, and the mis-timed hit settled in that same fielder’s hands. Latham made 37 from 49 balls while repeatedly sweeping, and it was one such shot off Yuzvendra Chahal that saw him out lbw. (AS IT HAPPENED: INDIA vs NEW ZEALAND, 5th ODI)

Chahal then did for Colin de Grandhomme with a faster delivery that thudded into his pads. (FULL SCORECARD: INDIA vs NEW ZEALAND)

Neesham threatened serious damage with 44 from 32 balls, which featured four fours and two massive sixes, before a moment of brilliance from Dhoni duped him. Neesham missed a big swipe off Jadhav, looked back to see the ball roll behind Dhoni, then set off after a look at Mitchell Santner, and in this time Dhoni, will still appealing for lbw, grabbed the ball and under-armed it onto the stumps. Neesham was run out by a foot. (WATCH: Dhoni’s brilliance dupes Neesham)

Chahal added Todd Astle, also out sweeping and Pandya returned to get Santner flicking straight to short fine leg and Bhuvneshwar Kumar ended the game when he had Trent Boult slashing to third man.

Ambati Rayudu's 90 off 113 balls contained four sixes.
Ambati Rayudu’s 90 off 113 balls contained four sixes. © AFP

That India had runs to defend was down to Shankar, Rayudu and Pandya. Shankar, batting for the first time in four career ODIs, laid the spadework for a fightback which was pushed into the next gear by Rayudu whose 90 helped push the total to 190, which morphed into 252 thanks to Pandya’s 22-ball 45.

The awkward nature of the pitch, which saw many deliveries stop on the batsmen and some rear up from odd spots, had Rayudu uneasy for the first half of his gritty innings but he overcame the odds to produce a very fine innings. His departure was followed by Kedar Jadhav’s, but Pandya smacked 45 from 22 to help India get 43 from overs 47 to 49.

Rohit Sharma, after opting to bat on a surface he hoped India could pile up a big total, was the first wicket to fall in the fifth over when he played at a ball from Matt Henry that left him and hit off stump. Shikhar Dhawan was next, leaping and upper-cutting Trent Boult to Henry at third man. Shubman Gill continued to look out of depth at this level, repeatedly fidgety and unsure of how forward to play before he pushed hesitantly at Henry and was taken at cover. When Dhoni was bowled for Boult for one, a scoreline of 18/4 came with a strong whiff of déjà vu.

That India did not collapse in a heap owed to some smart batting from Shankar, in particular, and Rayudu. In his first innings for India, Shankar was refreshingly positive with his footwork, game awareness and pace. His second ball was caressed past midwicket for four and though he had some close moments, his ability to stay calm for the duration of his 64-ball innings that yielded 45. (READ MORE: Umpires in focus after dramatic 49th over involving Pandya and New Zealanders)

After the speed and hostility of Henry and Boult, the gentler seam of Neesham and de Grandhomme kept a lid on runs as Shankar and Rayudu were forced to reset the innings. Six overs separate Shankar’s first and second fours, as Neesham and de Grandhomme mixed cutters and the odd effort ball to tie down the batsmen. Shankar stood tall to punch either side of the pitch and the short-ball offerings did not have him in as much bother as they did Rayudu.

Shankar once moved out to de Grandhomme and ended up wearing a short ball on his helmet, the result being four runs despite replays not showing bat or glove.

Rayudu battled to combat the seamers and the surface. A lifter from Henry had him hopping early on, and there were other close calls when deliveries sprang up. Twice Neesham had Rayudu standing tall to fend off short balls, one of which pulled just over square leg for four. A charge from Rayudu with a slog at de Grandhomme resulted in a spiralling mis-hit, but the ball landed in front of the sight screen for six. A second six followed as Rayudu connected sweetly on a pull of Munro.

Moments after he delicately dabbed Santner for four, Shankar was run out when Rayudu was late to reply to call. That terrible mix-up sparked the aggressor in Rayudu, who collected successive fours off de Grandhomme to secure his half-century in 86 balls, and then laid into Munro with two massive legside sixes.

Hardik Pandya hit five sixes, each bigger than the last.
Hardik Pandya hit five sixes, each bigger than the last. © AFP

Henry, after seven overs for 11 runs, returned and was cracked for three fours by Rayudu to drop his head. The mood was lifted, however, when an attempted loft over mid-off settled in deep cover’s palms. A fourth came Henry’s way when Jadhav (34) was bowled when totally flummoxed by a crafty slower ball. Henry ended with 4/35 from his ten overs. Pandya clouted three consecutive sixes off Todd Astle and then pulled Boult with ferocity for another. An eventful 49th over ensued, bowled by Neesham.

The first ball was driven with ease through the covers for four, the second biffed over wide long-on for six. The third was a slower bouncer that looked high but was not called wide by the square leg umpire, which prompted Pandya to walk over to ask why. The next ball was full and jammed wide of midwicket, with Pandya shouting two immediately. As he reached the nonstriker’s end, Pandya lost grip of his bat and after he ran back for the second without it, the New Zealanders appealed. Replays showed that he didn’t have control of his bat when he put his foot across the line as he turned, and after consultation the umpires deemed one short run.

Pandya was miffed, and replied by jamming a yorker on off stump past a diving short third man for four.

The sixth ball was a low full toss which Pandya miscued when attempting a slog, and Boult ran backwards and held a terrific catch from square leg. Pandya hung around in anticipation of replays showing a no-ball for height, but it was not to be.

Brief scores: India 252 in 49.5 overs (Rayudu 90, Pandya 45, Shankar 45, Henry 4/35) beat New Zealand 217 in 44.1 overs (Neesham 44) by 35 runs