The question has been answered. New Zealand are good enough to last the series as they beat India by 19 runs to level the score 2-2 as they give themselves a realistic chance, to even win the series. New Zealand batting played the same script as previous games but the bowlers and fielders picked their game up to deliver an unlikely win.
MS Dhoni’s home town Ranchi was the venue of the match and saw some unfortunate firsts for India. India would have been confident given the recent form of the batsmen and the fact that India has never lost a match in Ranchi. MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli had never been dismissed at this ground in its young international tenure. Well, that was all yesterday as New Zealand made sure that each of those facts were changed right there, today itself. Virat and Dhoni, both fell cheaply to trigger a batting collapse that ended with an Indian defeat.
New Zealand won the toss, a rarity this series, and decided to bat first. The decision did not look like a bright one as there was dew expected in the evening and bowling at that time would be difficult but New Zealand proved everyone wrong. They had read the pitch well and brought in an extra spinner because of the dry condition of the track. India brought in Dhawal Kulkarni in place of Bumrah and the move backfired straight away as Dhawal went for 15 runs in his first over and went for plenty more in the coming overs. Martin Guptill and Tom Latham came out attacking from the very start and targeted Kulkarni in particular. Guptill was the aggressor in chief as New Zealand raced away to 80-0 in just 10 overs. It was the spinners who tied the batsmen down and made runs difficult to come. Such was the effect that after the initial 10 overs, New Zealand managed just 180 runs and lost 7 wickets in the remaining 40 overs. Guptill was the highest scorer for New Zealand with 72 runs while Latham, Williamson and Taylor chipped in with 39, 41 and 35 runs respectively. Amit Mishra took 2 wickets while Yadav, Kulkarni, Pandya and Akshar Patel, all took a wicket each. New Zealand total of 260 for 7 was not a huge one by any margin on this ground and with the likes of Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni in the opposition; it was going to be tough to defend.
In pursuit of 261 runs and a series victory, India started poorly again as Rohit Sharma failed in the 4th consecutive innings to be dismissed for just 11 runs. With the score at 19-1 in the 5th over, Virat Kohli joined Ajinkya Rahane and batted well to stitch together a 79 run partnership. Virat scored 45 before being out caught behind off leggie Ish Sodhi. Rahane followed soon after completing his half century (57) and Dhoni fell quickly too. Manish Pandey was looking good before he fell to a superb catch from Tom Latham and Kedar Jadhav followed him the very next ball for a golden duck. Hardik Pandya also could not sustain for long and from 98-1 at one stage, India went down to 167/7. The match was all but over for India but the lower order resisted and showed resilience. Axar Patel scored 38 and partnered Amit Mishra (14) for crucial 37 runs for the 8th wicket. After Patel and Mishra walked back in quick succession, Dhawal Kulkarni and Umesh Yadav scored a brave 34 runs to keep India’s hopes alive till the end. Dhawal scored an unbeaten 25 off 26 balls as Umesh held one end. In the 49th over, with 20 required to win from 9 balls, Umesh mishit a Boult slower ball straight into the hand of extra cover to send New Zealand team and fans into the celebration mode. Tim Southee got Manish Pandey and Kedar Jadhav off successive deliveries and Neesham, with quick wickets of Rahane and Dhoni made vital breakthroughs in the middle overs to peg India back.
It is refreshing to see a recharged New Zealand as the cricket gets exciting with the series leveled with 1 match to go. New Zealand was the smarter team today as they read the conditions better than India and played a team accordingly. Both the teams now look similar and Vishakhapatnam would be gearing up for the 5th and final match as the battle of the equals. The forecast suggests heavy cyclonic rains there so whether the match happens or not, will be a different game altogether.
IND Vs NZ, 4th ODI, Ranchi
NZ: 260/7 (50 Overs)
IND: 241/10 (48.4 Overs)