India demolish Kiwis to win 3-0, become No 1

Published on Jan 24, 2023 10:36 PM IST

Record opening stand for Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill before Shardul Thakur breaks NZ resistance with three wickets.

Indian team members celebrate their victory against New Zealand(PTI)
Indian team members celebrate their victory against New Zealand(PTI)
By, Kolkata

Five hundred wasn’t impossible. But 400 was definitely there for the taking. That’s what a 212-run opening blitz, the highest against New Zealand in ODIs, does to expectations. Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill slammed quick hundreds in the process and India raised 200 in just 24.1 overs but still finished on 385 from 50 overs in the third ODI in Indore on Tuesday.

New Zealand initially tried to keep up with the chase, thanks to a fantastic hundred from Devon Conway but Shardul Thakur dismissed Daryl Mitchell and Tom Latham in the 25th over before removing Glen Phillips in the 28th over, triggering a collapse that exposed their frail middle order. Mitchell Santner and Michael Bracewell once again resisted but this time the wrist-spinner duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal wiped out the lower order to hand India a comprehensive 90-run win and a 3-0 clean sweep of the ODI leg.

With Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj rested, this was yet another good bowling performance that may be overshadowed by India’s batting might. But Sharma pointed that out during the post-match presentation.

“We wanted to bring Chahal and Umran (Malik) in the mix, put them under pressure,” he said. “We had runs on the board, but on this kind of ground, no total is safe. We stuck to the plans, held our nerves. Shardul has been doing this for a while, so some people call him a magician. Every time I've given Kuldeep the ball, he brings wickets. Just need to give him more games under his belt, because wrist-spinners get better as they play more.”

Records were tumbling as long as Sharma and Gill were batting. With his 30th ODI hundred, Sharma’s first in this format in 1100 days, the India captain equalled Ricky Ponting on the all-time list, just after Sachin Tendulkar (49 centuries) and Virat Kohli (46).

Gill aggregated 360 runs with this innings to go level with Babar Azam (against West Indies, 2016) as the highest run-getter in a three-match ODI series. This was India’s second-quickest 200 in ODIs, propelled by a run rate of 8.10 for the first wicket, the fourth-highest for a 200-plus opening stand in men's ODIs and the highest when batting first.

As flat as it gets in this part of the world, the Indore pitch was ideal to play through the line. Equally lightning quick was the outfield that led to some of the shortest boundaries compared to Indian venues. Sharma and Gill took some time to get their eye in before setting off with a six each in the fifth over. Initially, Gill played the aggressor. Lockie Ferguson was off to a decent start, bowling a maiden and conceding just six in three overs. But Gill hammered him for four, four, four, six and four to milk Ferguson for 22 runs. Sharma took 17 off the 10th over, Gill again scored 10 in the 16th over, all in clean hits. India raised 100 in 76 balls, 150 in 107 balls and 200 in 145 balls. India were set for something special, it seemed.

Luck played its part as well. Thick edges flew past the wicketkeeper’s gloves for four, inside edges missed the stumps and mishits sailed into the stands for sixes. But it was also a day both batters were connecting the ball very well. The drives were crisp, the late cuts were deft, Gill was hooking and pulling majestically while Sharma often came down the track to lift the ball over the bowler’s head. Nothing could go wrong till Sharma was clean bowled after he missed a huge heave against Michael Bracewell. Next over, Gill miscued Blair Tickner to Conway at point.

It was a strange passage of time for India. With more than 20 overs left, the incoming batters had enough time to adjust to a slowing pitch. But Kohli, Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav tried to keep up the tempo with varying results. It played into New Zealand’s hands as they quickly put the brakes on India’s scoring rate with the slower bowlers. From 250 in 32 overs, India could only add 135 more in the next 18. The lack of boundary hits was the main reason. Between the openers, 22 fours and 11 sixes had been hit. The rest of the batting accounted for just 11 boundaries and eight sixes.

For all the record-breaking batting in the first half of the innings, India also slowed down inexplicably, scoring just 55 between the 31st and 40th over, with only five boundaries for the loss of three wickets. But India bat deep. So in came Hardik Pandya at No 6, scoring fifty off 36 balls in a mature innings while wickets kept falling at the other end. That and Thakur’s 17-ball 25 helped India come close to breaching that 400-run mark.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Somshuvra Laha is a sports journalist with over 11 years' experience writing on cricket, football and other sports. He has covered the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup, the 2016 ICC World Twenty20, cricket tours of South Africa, West Indies and Bangladesh and the 2010 Commonwealth Games for Hindustan Times.

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