Ravindra Jajeda (C) and Varun Aaron (R) talk with Michell McClenaghan after drawing the third ODI at the Eden Park, Auckland. (AFP Photo)
Ravindra Jadeja almost pulled off a nail-biting victory in favour of the visitors. But almost... His powerful drive through the off side on the last ball of the innings failed to race past the fielder. It yielded a single, drawing the curtains on an action-packed match that ended in a tie.
The visitors needed 18 runs from the last over, and managed to get 17 at the Eden Park stadium in Auckland.
India started their chase positively, with both Rohit Sharma and Dhawan showing intent. At their ease for the first time in the series, the opening duo quickly piled up a fifty plus partnership. They scored 64 off 56 balls.
Dhawan hit 28 off 25 balls, which included a six and four fours. However, he fell in the tenth over, trying to pull a Corey Anderson short ball, which he scooped to Guptill at deep mid-wicket.
Rohit survived an edge scare in the first over, but Jesse Ryder could not hold on to a very tough chance. He settled down and played some aggressive cricket. But he too fell in the 13th over, slashing at another Anderson delivery and getting caught at third man. He hit four sixes and a four to get to his 38.
Virat Kohli, the star of the last two matches also fell early, giving an edge to Luke Ronchi behind the stumps off a Bennette delivery. Kohli went after scoring 6.
Ajinkya Rahane, a batsman who has presented promise in the past, was the other failure of the day. Rahane tried to flick an Anderson delivery down the leg side, but only managed to edge it to Luke Ronchi behind the stumps.
Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni then put up a dogged resistance, trying to get the chase back on track. While they were not as fluent as the openers were, the odd ball was hit for the boundary or over it. The two hit 67 from 60 balls to stage a fight back.
But then Raina fell, edging a Tim Southee delivery to the keeper. He made 31 off 39 balls.
Skipper Dhoni prevailed, hitting a dogged 50. He could have turned the tide in favour of India, but when the second power play was taken in the 36th over, he perished trying to hit the ball out of the park right after smashing a six, giving an easy catch to Tim Southee at deep square leg.
It was at this point that India got its biggest partnership yet, an 85-run stand between R Ashwin (65) and Jadeja (66*) to keep India in the hunt. But Ashwin's luck ran out when Martin Guptill pulled off a stunner at the boundary to send him to the dressing room.
Most believed that all was over for India. Spectators were leaving the stadium. But Jadeja had yet to play his hand. Of the 45 runs that were scored after Ashwin got out, Jadeja scored all but 8.
Earlier, New Zealand suffered a minor batting collapse to end the innings, reaching 314 all out in the third ODI at the Eden Park stadium in Auckland on Saturday after Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson gave the hosts a strong start.
Sent in to bat first, New Zealand started in a flamboyant fashion. Openers Martin Guptill (111) and Ryder (20) went hammer and tongs at the Indian new ball duo of Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar from the word go. The two raced to an opening partnership of 36 off just 26 balls.
Bhuvneshwar finally struck, castling Ryder with a back of the length delivery on the leg stump that moved away a bit, taking his leg stump. But trouble for the visitors was far from over.
Guptill was joined by Williamson and the two put up a mammoth 153-run stand for the second wicket, the second highest for the Kiwis against India. Shami finally broke the partnership in the 33rd over when he bowled Williamson for 65. The Kiwi batsman tried to make room to go inside out, but Shami kept it full and straight, and found the stumps.
In the next over, R Ashwin struck to remove the very dangerous Corey Anderson (8). Anderson had already hit Ashwin for a six in the over. He tried to cut a shorter ball from the spinner but ended up losing his stumps.
The momentum did not seem to shift in India's favour, with Guptill still going strong. He reached his century in quick time and threatened to take the game away from India. But then a brilliant catch in the deep by Ajinkya Rahane off Ravindra Jadeja's bowling ended his sparkling innings.
If Brendon McCullum had intended to fight back, it did not happen. He tried to put a short ball from Varun Aaron over the ring, but merely ended up in chipping it to R Ashwin at cover-point. This was the Kiwi skipper's second consecutive duck.
The collapse continued for the hosts. Though Luke Ronchi (38) and Ross Taylor (17) tried to keep the tempo up, the latter fell to a brilliant direct hit from Ajinkya Rahane trying to take a tight run.
The next over saw another run out, this time accounting for Nathan McCullum (1). The over ended on a high note for the visitors when Ronchi ended up giving Rahane a simple catch at deep mid-wicket.
There were some late fireworks from the Kiwi tail, with Mitchell McClenaghan and Tim Southee hitting some lusty blows, getting the hosts to the competitive total in the end.
The series is now 2-0 after three matches, with two more matches still to be played.
Live Commentary, India Innings:
Commentary, New Zealand Innings: