New Zealand v India, 3rd ODI, Auckland January 26, 2014

NZ's problem of the knockout punch

One of the most important issues New Zealand need to sort before the fourth ODI is their ability to shut the opposition out after getting to a strong position

Not many would have bet on New Zealand beating India in three successive matches. The ODI in Auckland showed one of the reasons why. Few top sides would have allowed the opposition to come within one shot of winning from 184 for 6 in a chase of 315. New Zealand had a golden chance to finish the series in Auckland but blew it spectacularly. And for all their recent resurgence and Brendon McCullum's confident vibes at press conferences, it is this failure to deliver the knockout blow that they have to weed out.

New Zealand almost gave the impression that they were pleased at having tied the Auckland match, when it actually had been theirs to lose for a considerable period. McCullum even said they had done reasonably with the ball and on the field, when they had actually allowed what had been a long tail in the first two games to all but run away with the match.

"I think we are obviously proud of the way we are playing at the moment and the characteristics that we are showing in some of the cricket we are playing is very good," McCullum said. "They are the expectations we have of ourselves. We don't always live up to them. We are starting to see a team that is growing in confidence.

"We executed our blueprint pretty well for a majority of it. We lost our way for a little bit. In the field and with the ball we were okay, so from that point of view, I hope it sends the message that New Zealand is starting to get there as a one-day team and can really compete against big nations. We just need to keep backing it up and do it consistently."

Kane Williamson felt New Zealand had been "calm" in tough situations against quality players.

"When you play a world-class side like that, you know what they are capable of. You can sometimes let go and they will get away from you at times," Williamson said. "You get a wicket and you pull it back and for some reason, you can be quite calm in that situation. And I think we were and I think we have been in the last few games.

"It's an important lesson to take forward into the next two games because I think in tougher times, you have world-class players that can take the game away from you but if they get dismissed, whether they score a hundred or not, you have every chance of winning the game. The likes of Virat and Dhoni are extremely dangerous players but if you can get them out, especially chasing, you can defend anything."

New Zealand sent back both Kohli in the 15th over and Dhoni by the 36th over in Auckland. Yet, had Ravindra Jadeja managed to connect the last ball better, New Zealand would have failed in their defence of a substantial score. This is not to run down what has been a performance way above expectations against the world champions. New Zealand did manage to hold out a stiff counter from India in both Napier and Hamilton.

But as Jadeja and R Ashwin went after them in Auckland, they cracked.

Their fielding, something they pride themselves on, reprieved both batsmen with dropped chances. There was a missed stumping as well. They had relaxed their guard after the huge wicket of Dhoni, and you could sense some panic among the ranks. Boundary balls, wides, the occasional misfields. The wheels had come apart but, fortuitously for them, Corey Anderson just about got away with a very poor final over.

Which is why the fourth match at Seddon Park becomes even more crucial for New Zealand. India have sensed the hosts can be vulnerable even when they are on top.

"Hamilton will again be a huge game for us," McCullum said. "It's a good test for us. We are playing against the best and we have been confronted with some pressure situations and we are learning a lot about ourselves which is good. It should hold us in good stead in 12 months' time."

McCullum would want New Zealand to apply those learnings as well, for such a meltdown could prove far costlier in the World Cup next year.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Shane on January 31, 2014, 13:18 GMT

    @RSairam - you are confused, NZ beat South Africa in South Africa, and England in England. Whatever valid criticisms you may fire at NZ, and ability to win away isn't one of them.

  • Shane on January 31, 2014, 13:16 GMT

    I'm a bit confused as to whether this article is meant to be taken seriously or not - the team which has just pulverised India in the series has a problem delivering the knockout punch? The team which has beaten South Africa and England away from home in the last 12 months? Strange ideas...

  • Dummy4 on January 29, 2014, 3:47 GMT

    stupid comments/article from those who hardly follows NZ .... they the team in last 10 months won ODI series in SA and Eng in their own turf... where since WC India hardly won any series(except zim) out their country ..... in fact NZ do not a good record in their own ground in recent times....

  • Sairam on January 28, 2014, 4:00 GMT

    @cmatnz - Agreed without excuses that India lost to the better team in the first two ODIs. But we did not get thrashed and some selection issues may have made the difference and it is worth debating atleast to win the remaining matches. I assume you only want to put counter arguement when mentioning about jadeja decision and hence will not respond to that.. Population? seriously ? Come on. So you say NZ will become world-beaters if they are 1 billion? there are so many factors like passion, culture, quality of living etc... It is not like we have 1 billion people playing cricket everyday. Although the passion for cricket is huge, we are not a sporting nation so far and trying to improve there.. Mind you, we are a team in transition and have done well in recent ODI tournaments (last year, home and away). Hope you know how NZ fared in India too..NZ does well at home as they showed against Eng, SA and now India..but remember Bangladesh also does well at home and has beaten NZ twice.

  • London on January 27, 2014, 22:11 GMT

    NZ may have lacked the KO punch but at least they have fired a punch. India for all their heavyweight bluster have delivered exactly zero. They've been lucky to win a toss and even luckier with the slice of dodgy umpiring to keep them in game 3.

  • Harry on January 27, 2014, 21:45 GMT

    Lot of heated opinions on NZ and Ind. NZ is going strong currently and in their backyard difficult to beat as WI found out and now Ind is finding out. The fact is this Ind team is new and have to learn quickly to play well together before the WC2015. It does not matter if they win or lose bi-lateral series like SA and now in NZ. It does matter whether they learn from their mistakes like never ever bring back Ishant. Drop Raina and drop Ashwin for a proper leg spinner who can get wickets. NZ deserves credit for their showing but as Purohit observes they have a tendency for a melt-down which teams like Aus and SA will pounce on. Ind's No. 1 ranking or their population has no relevance here since the game is won based on who played better that day.

    For those who are harsh on the Ind team here is a summary of WC wins 1) Aus - 4 times 2) WI - 2 times 3) Ind - 2 times 4) SL and Pak - 1 time each. WC2015 is wide open given no one is dominant currently in ODIs.

  • Altaf on January 27, 2014, 9:46 GMT

    NZ didn't bowl good length which India always had problem playing with. Full and short deliveries were bonus to particularly Dhoni and Jadeja. In SA, they were troubled with these sort of deliveries struggling to even past score 200. NZ even didn't changed line when Jadeja was hitting strongly on leg-side in final overs, they could have bowled outside off swinging the ball to break his rhythm. Anyway, it's not all-over yet. Still 2 matches to play to seal the series.

  • GREG on January 27, 2014, 9:39 GMT

    McCullum will learn from his error of not keeping Southee available for the final over. The fielding was unusually shoddy and too many extras accrued. The boys will still be confident to win 1 more game and wrap up the series.

  • Greg on January 27, 2014, 7:54 GMT

    Pretty scathing report for a team that on paper should be 3 nil down. Nz and the team understand that taking on the juggernaut of Indian short format cricket with the limited resources and talent pool they have is a monumental task. To have even been competitive is extraordinary, for me they can be total forgiven on missing golath's eye in this instance.

  • Ian on January 27, 2014, 5:55 GMT

    With Australia, even when they're down and you have your foot at their throat, there's always this lingering fear that somehow it'll all go wrong and they'll turn the tables, and you just keep praying until the fat lady sings before you can finally breathe easy. With New Zealand, even when you're down and they have their foot at your throat, you still somehow feel that all is not lost and you may somehow be able to turn it around with a bit of luck. That's the main difference between a winning team and a nearly-won team. New Zealand need a bit of ruthlessness in their approach, and with this current team I have a feeling they will have a lot of surprises in store for everyone.

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