Stephen Fleming: holds aloft the ODI series trophy after comprehensive victory
It's over, the longest one-day series played in New Zealand cricket history and thanks to an unbeaten innings of 60 by captain Stephen Fleming the home side claimed a six-wicket win over India at Hamilton tonight.
It wasn't a great cricket match, which was hardly surprising, because little of the series will live long in the memory. New Zealand took it 5-2 and as Fleming said, it was a war of attrition that New Zealand won.
Just as small innings scores dominated the series, so they did in this match which saw India dismissed for 122, and New Zealand replied in 28.4 overs with 125 for four.
India, put in to bat by Fleming, made another miserable start and were never going to recover from 17 for three wickets with Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and Dinesh Mongia all back in the pavilion.
Captain Sourav Ganguly (15) and Rahul Dravid (12) gave early impetus to recovering the innings, but it was left to Yuvraj Singh and Anil Kumble to get India up to 122. It was a blow to India getting an even higher score when Yuvraj attempted to hit a ball from Scott Styris over mid on but wasn't able to clear Lou Vincent who held the catch.
Kumble was the ninth man out for 21 off 70 balls and it was Andre Adams who again did the damage taking four wickets for 21 runs off 8.5 overs. Styris took two for 23 and Daryl Tuffey, the international cricketer of the New Zealand summer, took two for 26. Kyle Mills, who bowled another unbroken spell of 10 overs took two for 29.
As New Zealand lost three wickets for 32 runs, there were natural rumblings that another crawl to victory was in prospect.
But there was something extra in the way Fleming batted, an extra grit that wasn't going to let the opportunity go by. Some of his shots square of the wicket were played in the manner of Fleming in his best touch and the hope must now be that it is a forerunner to expressing himself on the World Cup stage.
Whenever New Zealand has performed well in World Cups, it has been because of the batsmen, Glenn Turner in 1975 and Martin Crowe in 1992. If Fleming can provide the inspiration, and light up Nathan Astle, Craig McMillan, Mathew Sinclair and Chris Cairns in the top order then prospects have to be bright.
He scored his 33rd One-Day International half-century off 85 balls and was there at the end with 60 unbeaten runs beside his name.
Styris scored 29 in a partnership of 84 with Fleming, and as Fleming said if you could construct a partnership you had to make sure it was the winning partnership, and in many ways that sums up the series.
Javagal Srinath was clearly the dominating bowler of the series and he will be kicking himself that a simple caught and bowled chance that would have dismissed Styris when he was on six, and New Zealand were 56 for three wickets, went down as it would have put New Zealand under greater pressure and would have given him his 300th ODI wicket which would have made him only the second Indian to have achieved the feat.
As it was, he finished with two for 28.
New Zealand had been forced to use Brendon McCullum at No 3 because under the ICC laws covering players unable to take the field, Chris Harris was not allowed to bat until five wickets had fallen.
He had missed the first 16 overs of India's innings due to an illness.
Interestingly, in his end of series speech made at the presentations after the game, New Zealand Cricket chief executive Martin Snedden said the quality of the pitches had not been good enough, they had not been conducive to good cricket.
"The buck stops with New Zealand Cricket and we will have to do better," he said.
However, he said New Zealand had kept command of the Test series and the first four matches of the one-day series, and had managed to finish with a flourish today.
India were keen to take their third win and to go to South Africa on a winning momentum, but the New Zealanders looked more intent in their application and regained their winning perspective.