All-round India make it 4-1 in Wellington

India bounced back in style to complete a 4-1 series victory over the hosts at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Sunday.

India won the toss in the capital city and Rohit Sharma decided to bat first. Despite being a dead rubber, a lot was at stake for the visitors after a below-par performance at Hamilton.

India made 3 changes to the side that went down in the previous encounter. The experienced MS Dhoni came back along with Mohammed Shami and Vijay Shankar. Dinesh Karthik and Khaleel were dropped while Kuldeep was rested for the final encounter. The hosts had one change to their winning combination. Colin Munro was back to replace an injured Martin Guptill.

Matt Henry took the new ball again and gave the kind of start the hosts wanted. He got through Rohit Sharma’s defence with an absolute peach as early as in the 4th over, dismissing him for just two.

Trent Boult continued to trouble Shikhar Dhawan when he bagged him for the fourth time in this series. Dhawan played a needless stroke straight to the man at third-man. India’s openers managed just 12 on the board when a confident looking Shubman Gill joined Ambati Rayudu.

Gill played a sublime drive straight down the ground before a check-shot saw him being caught at covers. India were reduced to 17/3 when MS Dhoni stepped out but Trent Boult produced an absolute ripper that nipped back in to disturb his furniture.

India were kept reeling at 18/4 with a Hamilton repeat in sight but the think-tank promoted Vijay Shankar ahead of Kedar Jadhav and Hardik Pandya at number six. The duo assessed the conditions early, settling in to bail India out of trouble.

Shankar, by far, India’s best batsman until now had started to play his shots. He, along with Rayudu, added 98 runs for the fifth wicket helping the Men in Blue get back on track.

Shankar played for 64-balls hitting 4 boundaries during his stay at the crease. His innings was cut short when a half-hearted call saw him being run out for 45.

Kedar Jadhav walked in next to join hands with Rayudu who was batting exceptionally well at the other end. India had successfully escaped a batting collapse and were looking to finish on the right note. Rayudu was batting well-past his fifty too.

Jadhav also played a few good attacking shots and got crucial boundaries at right intervals helping India accelerate from time to time.

In the process of getting quick runs, Rayudu lost his plot and hit a ball straight to deep cover falling 10 short of a well-deserved hundred. Hardik, the next man, barely took time to settle-in but India lost a settled Jadhav on 34 at the other end to leave the task of scoring quick runs only on the able shoulders of Pandya.

Hardik ran riot when he smashed Todd Astle all over the park – for three successive sixes to give India’s innings a late, required flourish. In the 48th over, Pandya clobbered Trent Boult for a six over midwicket and took a single off the next ball to retain the strike.

In the penultimate over, he pummelled Neesham for 10 runs off the first two balls before the latter got rid of him through a high-full-toss. The damage had been done by then and Hardik’s 22-ball 45-run cameo had put India past the 250-run mark.

Matt Henry and Trent Boult picked 7 wickets between them as the visitors were bowled out for 252 from 49.5 overs – a fighting target after once being reduced to 18/4.

Chasing 253 for a win, NZ’s experiment with Henry Nicholls at the top did not work out. The left-hander made a mess of a pull-shot and gave Shami his first wicket of the evening.

Colin Munro played a mix of pre-empted shots and a mix out of his own guts to frustrate India early on. He was striking it at more than run-a-ball but Kane Williamson from the other end took his own time to settle.

Munro’s stay at the crease came to an end when he dragged a Mohammed Shami delivery back onto his own stumps. New Zealand needed something special from their man-in-form, Ross Taylor.

However, India’s first change – Hardik Pandya had different plans. Taylor’s problems with the ball pitching in the line of the stumps continued when Pandya trapped him in front of the sticks.

NZ were reduced to 38/3 when they went into a shell. They needed a resurrection act which came in the form of Kane Williamson and Tom Latham.

The duo added 50 runs in just 13.3 overs to get the chase back on track. Latham was looking good with support from Kane on the other end when Kedar Jadhav struck gold. He got rid of Williamson who tried to clear the leg-side fence but failed in the attempt.

Yuzvendra Chahal got in the act to derail the chase completely when he had Tom Latham trapped plumb in front. New Zealand kept fighting through Jimmy Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme.

Neesham, in particular, took the attack to India, scoring quick runs. Chahal, meanwhile, removed de Grandhomme to put the pressure on Neesham’s shoulders.

He was batting comfortably on 44 off just 32 balls when MS Dhoni’s presence of mind ran him out. The required run-rate came under six but New Zealand didn’t have enough wickets in hand to challenge India.

Chahal had a third lbw decision going his way when he dismissed Todd Astle. Matt Henry did hit a few meaty blows but New Zealand eventually fell 35 runs short.

India sealed the series 4-1 with Ambati Rayudu for his splendid knock of 90 runs was named as the Man of the Match.

India will play 3 T20Is next in the last leg of this tour starting February 6.