New Zealand defend 260 to keep series alive
New Zealand 260 for 7 (Guptill 72, Williamson 41, Mishra 2-42) beat India 241 (Rahane 57, Southee 3-40) by 19 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Martin Guptill's opening salvo, and canny bowling from Tim Southee and James Neesham, ensured New Zealand forced the ODI series into a decider at Visakhapatnam. Having won their first toss of the tour in their eighth match, New Zealand, led by Guptill's bruising half-century, tactfully exploited the field restrictions and ultimately finished at 260 for 7 on a track that offered turn and variable - sometimes negligible - bounce. The bowlers then frequently varied their pace and found equally good support from the fielders to throttle India's chase.
Southee was New Zealand's key figure with the ball, first having Rohit Sharma caught behind with a perfectly-pitched outswinger. He returned with the old ball and produced a double-strike to all but snuff out the chase; a ball after Manish Pandey holed out off him, he had Kedhar Jadhav pinned in front by a slower offcutter for a first-ball duck. Three overs later Hardik Pandya was caught at long-off, Tom Latham running to his left to pocket a smart catch. India were left needing 94 off 84 balls, with three wickets in hand. Axar Patel, who was promoted to No. 5, and Amit Mishra briefly rallied with a 38-run partnership for the eighth wicket, Dhawal Kulkarni and Umesh Yadav then added 34 for the last wicket, but the hosts were dismissed for 241 in 48.4 overs.
Neesham had produced a double-strike of his own, before ceding the stage to Southee. He dismissed Ajinkya Rahane for 57 in the 28th over and followed it with the bigger wicket of MS Dhoni in the 30th over. Rahane shuffled across and was trapped lbw by a straight ball while Dhoni was bowled through the gate for 11 off 31 balls.
India, however, had started positively in their chase, with Rahane jumping onto any width offered and swatting away short balls with authority. He even uppercut Trent Boult for a six over point. He strung together 79 for the second wicket with Virat Kohli, who played a few trademark whiplash drives and punches during his 45 off 51 balls. Mitchell Santner, meanwhile, held his own and spun a few past the outside edge, with his family watching from the stands. And when he found the outside edge there was nobody at slips to snap it up.
The partnership ended in the 20th over when Ish Sodhi found Kohli's outside edge with a short legbreak and BJ Watling, who was playing his first ODI since February 2013, pouched it. The middle order then faded away, and although Axar showed glimpses of bravado in his cameo - 38 off 40 balls - India are yet to identify a genuine finisher with only four ODIs to go for the Champions Trophy.
New Zealand, on the other hand, ticked many boxes. For starters they read the conditions expertly, picking three spinners and taking the mind back to their success in the World T20. Guptill struck his second fifty of the tour. Latham was solid as usual, and Ross Taylor, under fire from all quarters, spent some time in the middle, although he was edgy throughout his 35 off 58 balls.
But the most telling contribution, perhaps, arrived from Guptill. He didn't always look pretty, but bent India's attack out of shape in the Powerplay. He gave Kulkarni a cold welcome, hitting three fours off four balls. The first two were skewed drives wide of point and over mid-on. The third was disdainfully scythed through extra cover. He pressed on to unfurl sublime inside-out drives too. The nature of the pitch put in perspective Guptill's early assault. As the match wore on, the odd ball kept low while several stopped on the batsmen. A couple of grubbers even raised puffs of dust from the surface.
India could have had Guptill on 29, but Mishra could not hold on to one after diving to his left from mid-on - a decent effort, but he might have done better if he were a bit quicker to react. Mishra gave him another life later on, misjudging a much simpler catch at long-off when Guptill was on 62.
Guptill had reached his half-century off 56 balls at the start of the 17th over, four balls after Axar had Latham top-edging a sweep to short fine leg for 39 off 40 balls. By then Axar and Mishra had settled into an asphyxiating rhythm. Guptill needed 12 balls to score his first run against spin, and was further stifled by Jadhav's loopy offbreaks and straighter ones. The spinners conceded only 19 runs in the seven overs from the 11th to the 17th. But it was Pandya who eventually removed Guptill, when he had him playing inside the line and feathering behind to leave New Zealand at 139 for 2 in 26 overs.
Mishra dragged them back further by removing Kane Williamson and Neesham in successive overs. New Zealand scrounged only 99 runs for five wickets from the last 20 overs of their innings, and only three boundaries in the last ten overs, including one of the final ball of the innings. But it proved enough to square the series.
Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo