New Zealand v India, 3rd ODI, Auckland January 25, 2014

Dhoni relieved series still alive

First things first. India would have wanted to go back to Hamilton with the series alive. And MS Dhoni was relieved that R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja's hitting had tied the Auckland ODI and ensured the contest wasn't dead just as yet. But the spinners' batting partnership came after more failures from the middle order, and after the bowlers had conceded a 300-plus total again. So India return to Hamilton with a chance to square the series, but with most of the old problems still intact.

Dhoni, though, stressed that getting out of Auckland without 0-3 was crucial.

"The big thing for us was to stay alive in this series," Dhoni said. "This game could have gone either way at that point. It seemed we needed hard work and application to win from there and Jadeja and Ashwin batted really well to take us to where we are and keep us alive. Overall quite happy.

"I think we would have loved to win the game here. But at the same time, most important thing is being alive in the series and that's what this tie does to us. We should have lost the game from 140-odd down for five-six. Once the kind of partnership we got we should have won from there. But it didn't go our way. In the end tie was a good one because good cricket was played and bad cricket was also played by both sides. That is the reason we are on even terms. We can't win the series but we can hold it to a draw.

"Yet again there were instances where we could have packed up the game in our favour. It's important to avail those. So far we have not done that in this series. Hopefully we can do that in the coming two matches."

One thing India haven't been able to do so far is build substantial partnerships in the middle overs. This, Dhoni said, was pulling the side down. In Auckland, India slipped from 64 for 0 to 79 for 4 in just over eight overs. "In the middle overs we haven't got the partnerships that are really needed," he said. "With the kind of changes in ODIs, if you have wickets you have an edge especially from 35th over onwards. We are losing quite a few wickets in the middle overs, which means you have to restart building the innings, which means you lose 25-30 runs.

"We have got power hitters in our batting. We haven't fired. We haven't availed the last ten overs generally how we do and yet we are getting very close to opposition targets. Hopefully in [the rest of] this series we will have wickets in hand and be able to use those overs and get those extra runs."

Dhoni also singled himself out, saying that he should have batted till the finish, which he had not been able to do in all three games despite making decent contributions. "My responsibility as a batsman is to stay till the end and so far in this series I have not been able to do that," he said. "Got out close to 40-43rd over. It puts pressure on batsmen after me. Will be good if I can stay till 48th-49th over."

Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma gave India a swift start, though, and Ashwin and Jadeja ensured an electric finish. Dhoni was pleased with these performances, and said it would only help the spinners grow as batsmen. "Overall I like the approach in this game," he said. "There is a certain brand of cricket we are known to play. That was missing in the last few games. So it was very important to express and the openers did that. Lower in the order, Ashwin and Jadeja also played the same brand of cricket. Still need to convert those starts into big innings, though."

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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