New Zealand sealed the five-match ODI series with a seven-wicket win over India in the fourth game, in Hamilton. A valuable 60 by Kane Williamson and a sparkling ton by Ross Taylor took the hosts to a comfortable victory, after India posted 278. Unbeaten on 49, Brendon McCullum took the team across the line with a six, with 11 balls to spare. Meanwhile, Taylor remained not out on 112.
Earlier, India made a few changes going into the must-win match at the Seddon Park. First was the line-up – Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina made way for Ambati Rayudu and Stuart Binny. And MS Dhoni opted to bat first after winning the toss. Virat Kohli opened the batting for India, but this time round, India's most consistent performer in recent times was back in the dressing room early. He was followed by Ajinkya Rahane. Tim Southee and Kyle Mills kept a strangle hold on the batsmen from the word go. Mills and Jimmy Neesham replaced Corey Anderson and Mitchell McClenaghan in the NZ squad.
Rohit and Rayudu stabilised the Indian innings with a 79-run stand. He began to cut and pull as he slammed the ball to the fence. Rayudu too stepped out to the bowlers trying to upset the rhythm and moved his feet while trying to keep the flow runs steady. However, later, Rayudu top-edged a short ball from Hamish Bennett to the wicketkeeper to depart for 37.
Dhoni then joined Rohit in taking the innings forward and the duo had added 41 for the fourth wicket when a Williamson delivery going down the leg side grazed the opener’s bat and Ronchi took a catch diving to his left to send Rohit back for 79. Ashwin then got off the mark with a glorious boundary through covers, but perished while trying to cut Bennett.
With the pace set and the captain on song at the other end, Ravindra Jadeja continued from where he had left in the previous game. The ball found itself amongst the spectators a few times through the innings as India set the home team a competitive target after a slow and shaky start.
Scoring at over seven runs per over, they added 127 runs in an unbroken stand. With a flat four straight down ground, the India skipper brought up his third consecutive 50.
Jadeja’s quick-fire knock injected new life into the innings. While Dhoni remained unbeaten on 79, Jadeja was not out on 62 off 54 balls.
Chasing 279, Martin Guptill and Jesse Ryder got the home team off to a good start and were coasting along when Varun Aaron struck in his first over to remove Ryder and halt the opening stand for 54. And in the next over, Guptill was trapped leg-before by Mohammed Shami.
The two quick wickets helped peg back NZ run-rate. With spin getting assistance, Dhoni introduced Jadeja in the 11th over and then brought in Ashwin from the other end, and they responded by bringing down the run rate below five.
It was in the 22nd over that debutant Binny was introduced into the attack and Rayudu replaced Bhuvneshwar after a two-over short spell as the Indians strove to ebb the flow of runs and get breakthroughs. While Williamson and Taylor looked to add to the total, Dhoni rotated his bowlers.
Meanwhile, the Kiwi pair steadily built on the innings at an unhurried pace, dispatching the loose deliveries to the boundary. The partnership began to take shape and was past the three-figure mark. Taylor was the first of the two to reach his 50 and Williamson, who has been the mainstay of the hosts’ line-up, bought up his fourth successive 50 with a single off Ashwin.
It was a brilliant piece of fielding that gave India a much-needed breakthrough. Jadeja fielded the ball off his own bowling to run Williamson out and end the partnership for 130.
However, the wicket didn’t bring much relief to the visitors as Taylor continued to milk the Indian attack. With Brendon McCullum at the other end, runs kept flowing freely. Taylor slammed Bhuvneshwar over cover to reach the 90s, and in the following over, McCullum sent Aaron sailing over long-off. While they inched towards the target, Taylor brought up his ton with a powerful cut to the fence off Aaron.
With an unbroken 92-run partnership they took their team across the line.
Man of the Match: Ross Taylor for his match-winning century