Daijiworld Media Network
Hamilton, Jan 28: Good day and a warm welcome to wherever one may be as we begin our coverage for the 4th ODI from Seddon Park in Hamilton. In all the three games, before today, India have won the toss and decided to field first - leaving them to chase targets down. They were unsuccessful in the first two, before somehow managing to pull off a tie in the third ODI, to keep the series alive. Will the same pattern follow today as well? Toss and teams in a short while, do stay tuned.
Going into the fourth ODI, if anyone had put money on India being down 0-2, requiring wins in both the last two ODIs to square the series, would've been a rich man now. This series has been quite unpredictable with New Zealand proving to be a tough nut to crack in home conditions. They were in the box seat to wrap up the series at Eden Park a couple of days ago, but an inspired Ravindra Jadeja kept India's slim hopes alive as he secured a tie from a no-win situation.
India have won the toss and have opted to bat
A great day in Hamilton - with not a cloud in the sky; perfect conditions to play cricket in. We should've the toss any moment now.
It has been confirmed - Stuart Binny makes his ODI debut, he replaces Dhawan. Rahane in all probability will open the innings. New Zealand have made two changes as well - they have decided to rest Corey Anderson, which is a bit of a surprise and Mitchell McClenaghan. James Neesham and Kyle Mills come back in to replace them.
India (Playing XI): Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni(w/c), Ravindra Jadeja, Stuart Binny, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Varun Aaron
New Zealand (Playing XI): Martin Guptill, Jesse Ryder, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Brendon McCullum(c), James Neesham, Luke Ronchi(w), Nathan McCullum, Tim Southee, Hamish Bennett, Kyle Mills
After a gripping tie, India and New Zealand will resume hostilities at the Seddon Park in Hamilton but completely different ambitions. While the hosts would want to win and seal the series, the visiting world champions are desperate to stay in it with a victory on Tuesday. A defeat in Hamilton and India would have succumbed to their second consecutive series loss outside the subcontinent within two months. Can MS Dhoni's men step up and avoid a humiliation?
Few would have expected them to dominate India but they have done that with ease and sheer poise. Brendon McCullum's leadership against a powerful Indian side has caught the visitors off guard and they now lie on the cusp of a series defeat. Most things have clicked for the hosts, with their batsmen adopting very aggressive tactics against the weak Indian attack.
New Zealand have got off to strong starts, thanks to Martin Guptill and Jesse Ryder at the top, have had periods of consolidation by Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor while Corey Anderson and Luke Ronchi took upon themselves the job of collecting quick runs in the death overs, where a usually toothless Indian bowling attack is at its worse.
New Zealand have bowled well too, albeit in patches but those brief spells of sustained pressure have been enough to choke up the Indian batting line-up. The openers have not been allowed to get away and the middle-order barring Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni have been kept on a tight leash.
All of that changed in the third ODI, where India got off to a good start and despite a rare Kohli failure, still managed to tie in pursuit of 315. When a mighty Indian batting line-up, in desperate search of a win, decided to throw all caution to the wind and attacked, the Kiwi bowlers were found not a little wanting.
But all said, New Zealand are still in a better position, for the series is now theirs to lose.
As always, when a home team is on song, any player could be dangerous on a given day. Kane Williamson has been in top form, with three consecutive half-centuries, Ross Taylor has looked really good, Martin Guptill is always a threat and he showed how big, with a sublime century in Auckland.
But the biggest threat, as always will be Corey Anderson. The powerful southpaw has the ability to hit them long and hard and score quick runs when India's bowlers are most vulnerable - the last 10 overs. And he showed in the tied game what a useful bowler he is, picking up a maiden fifer.
MS Dhoni exuded confidence after India finally put an end to their four-match losing streak with a sensational tie. The captain hopes now to draw the series and salvage some pride from a series they were expected to dominate. To be fair, the batting has indeed revolved around Dhoni and the ever reliable Kohli, but it has still fared a lot better than the bowling department.
India did well to tie the game after India's bowlers had leaked 314, even as Kohli flopped for the first time this series, after a century and a composed 78. Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma did not get the big scores but they got India off to a flier, ensuring the middle-order could always keep the team in the game.
Suresh Raina, who is yet to score a half-century since his last against Zimbabwe about five months ago, got involved in a crucial stand with Dhoni while R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja stole the show with the bat after economical bowling spells to keep India alive in the series. But does Dhoni need a minor change in the batting line-up? Would he try Ambati Rayudu or even Stuart Binny instead of Ajinkya Rahane, who has looked out of sorts in the ODI middle-order?
The bowling needs to come good. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar has been tight, Mohammad Shami has taken wickets but leaked runs and Varun Aaron, chosen to replace Ishant Sharma proved to be expensive too. The spinners, after much criticism came good, but Dhoni would need his seamers to back him up.
Kohli does not like getting out cheaply and he would like to make amends for the last game. He is in brilliant form and easily the best batsman in world cricket at the moment. Dhoni, despite the shortcomings of his bowlers, has been in solid form, though the captain himself admitted that he needed to stay and finish these games off.
Jadeja's heroics with the bat should propel him to bigger heights, provided he remained consistent. He has been a useful bowler for India but the team management would look at many such knocks from him in the future. Is this a beginning of great things to come from the Saurashtra boy?
We've just not been at the best of our game. That's the best point we can take forward, in terms of saying, we've not really played our best game yet - R Ashwin, India off-spinner.
We are still playing good cricket and still in a good mind frame, we have to keep going that way. We are very much on target to win the series - Luke Ronchi, New Zealand wicketkeeper.