Jadeja, Ashwin keep series alive with tie
New Zealand 314 (Guptill 111, Williamson 65) tied with India 314 for 9 (Jadeja 66*, Ashwin 65, Dhoni 50, Anderson 5-63)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
On a surreal night when New Zealand kept swinging between the spectacular and the silly, they just couldn't conjure enough to close the deal against a resilient Indian lower middle order, which snuck a tie to keep the series alive. New Zealand had the game won when they brought together R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja with India still needing 131 in less than 15 overs. After that they had opportunities to kill the game off, but dropped a catch, missed a stumping, and couldn't hit the stumps.
When it became really desperate, Martin Guptill, who had scored a century earlier and taken a blinder earlier in the match, pulled off a sensational catch at the boundary to bring New Zealand right back. And then came the wides, another drop, another missed run-out. They just couldn't put it past Jadeja, who with No. 11 for company, took 17 off the last over, bowled by Corey Anderson, who had taken five wickets. They might even have something to say to the umpires who denied them the wickets of Jadeja and Suresh Raina, and twice wided them unfairly. India faced the brunt of poor judgement of wides once themselves.
It was a difficult night to explain. New Zealand could have scored 350. They could have been bowled out for 289. They could have won by 50 runs. They could have easily lost. Hamish Bennett, with all the titanium in his reassembled back, made a superb return to international cricket with back-to-back maidens to Virat Kohli, and then the timely wickets of Kohli and Bhuvneshwar Kumar and figures of 2 for 41 in 10 overs. His last act of the night was to drop Jadeja in the 49th over, and with that a 21-run win. Ashwin dived to complete threes, Jadeja turned down singles, umpires forgot the wide law, didn't hear edges, and in the final act of disbelief, Jadeja didn't even try the second when two were required off the last ball.
Tim Southee took the fumbling New Zealand past 300 with 27, went for a few, took a swerving blinder off MS Dhoni's bat in the outfield, but couldn't quite get to another offering from Jadeja when India still needed 64. Luke Ronchi played his part with 38 off 20, but missed a regulation stumping chance a ball after Southee had reprieved Jadeja.
What of Bhuvneshwar Kumar then? He got the rampaging Jesse Ryder out, kept India in it with just 48 off his nine overs, but when he had a chance to catch Southee at third man, he parried it for a six. Against a team that would turn a six into a catch later. India themselves missed at least four run-out opportunities during the 155-run second-wicket stand. Raina dropped a sitter from Williamson, who scored his third fifty in three matches.
When Williamson eventually fell, in the 33rd over with the score 189, he had set New Zealand up beautifully. This is about the time when New Zealand have been going berserk this series. You can look back at the period harshly, but New Zealand looked to set a target that was India-proof and small-boundaries-proof. Except that this time many of their shots resulted in wickets, the running went awry, and seven wickets fell for 90.
There was no momentum to be carried into the second innings. New Zealand were underwhelming after the 35th over, but they also had that bonus of 25 runs thanks to the drop by Bhuvneshwar. India came with all the momentum, though. Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan came out attacking, and took India to 64 in nine overs. That's when Bennett and Anderson intervened. Bennett took an over to warm up, but bowled serious pace and to his field. Anderson was wily with his bouncers and changes of pace. Twenty runs and four wickets, including Kohli's, came in the next nine overs.
The game looked over then, but in a remarkable show of tenacity, for the first time in India's ODI history, their Nos 6, 7 and 8 all scored half-centuries. Dhoni kept India alive with his, Ashwin made them dream, and Jadeja was the man standing.
With Dhoni and Ashwin at least, there was no slogging involved. However, the 55-ball 85-run partnership between Ashwin and Jadeja began to became a serious problem only after the 40th over when New Zealand were forced to go back to Nathan McCullum after having attacked with the quicks for long. He should have had both the batsmen in successive deliveries, but you can't take away from the stylish shots of Ashwin that made New Zealand desperate.
In Nathan McCullum's next, when Ashwin went for a second six, Guptill intercepted it, took it over his shoulder and in the air space beyond the boundary, before leaving the ball, stepping out and coolly coming back to complete the catch. India still needed 46, and Bhuvneshwar was to soon get out to a sharp bouncer from Bennett.
Now it was only Jadeja, who has so often been meek with the bat. So often a helpless part of batting collapses. Grudgingly respected for his bowling and still ridiculed for the mismatch between his three triple-centuries in Ranji Trophy and his ability with the bat. In his redemption, he played calmly, kept pinging the short straight boundary, didn't panic when he saw the asking rate climb when he refused singles. It was still New Zealand's game to lose when the last over began with 18 required.
Anderson had been the hero thus far, and he was given the responsibility of closing out the game after he and Bennett had troubled Jadeja with the bouncers. In this over, though, Jadeja was a step ahead of the game, and set himself back to pull the first one for four. The other tactic had been to cramp Jadeja when he backed away, but to the second delivery Jadeja shrewdly moved back in to earn a wide. With the second and third balls, he couldn't do anything, but didn't give the strike to No. 11 Varun Aaron, who has quite the penchant for ending up in these last-over situations with the bat. It was down to fours required off each of the balls left.
The next ball Jadeja flicked off the rib for four. The difference here was he was expecting the short ball. The next one was even better: a flat six pulled over midwicket. Now with two required, New Zealand needed to cut their losses. They spread the leg-side field, put every one up on the off side, and Anderson bowled outside off. Jadeja failed to beat cover, finished the single comfortably, but for some reason didn't go for the second. The second was not on, but you never know what fielders are liable to do under such pressure situations. Jadeja and Aaron had nothing to lose with the second, but they didn't go for it. It was a difficult night to explain.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo