Rain saves India from heavy defeat to NZ after batting collapse

India’s batting came apart in the third and final ODI in Christchurch, and it was only rain that turned a probable 0-2 series defeat into a 0-1 loss as their bowling also failed to make a dent in New Zealand’s progress. Rishabh Pant failed once again, ending a miserable tour with scores of 6, 11, 15 and 10; Suryakumar Yadav couldn’t fire in both ODI innings that went the distance, suggesting that he is yet to figure out the longer white-ball format despite bossing the shorter one.

Shreyas Iyer and Washington Sundar enhanced their reputations on this tour, but India’s lack of express pace with the new ball hurt them in these conditions, even as first-change Umran Malik showcased a more controlled, albeit still work-in-progress, version of the tearaway who had grabbed attention in the Indian Premier League.

At Hagley Oval, a combination of a green-tinged surface, overcast conditions, and the four-man Kiwi pace battery plus the deceptive medium-pace of Daryl Mitchell, were too much to handle for the Indians after they were inserted. There was plenty of pace and bounce, and enough seam and swing, resulting in none of the India batsmen being really ‘in’, even if they had spent some time in the middle.

Shikhar Dhawan decided that trying to somehow get through the new balls was futile; in between getting squared up and beaten by unplayable deliveries, he would jump down the track and hoist the ball over the infield for a boundary. With the ball continuing to nibble around even after an hour, Dhawan’s approach was high-risk; he paid the price when Adam Milne moved one in just enough off the pitch for Dhawan’s dash to end in an inside edge onto pad and then into the stumps.

Shubman Gill had been more circumspect and had just begun to find his range with a drive and pull for fours off Milne when he clipped the seamer straight to square leg. He’d departed in similar fashion in the first ODI too.

Pant came in and tried a bit of Dhawan’s approach, charging Lockie Ferguson and tucking him to the deep midwicket rope. But he soon began getting fidgety, especially at the sight of Mitchell, who was operating around 120 kph. After having a massive heave and not connecting, Pant decided to pull without being in a good position, and mishit for deep square-leg to run in and take the catch. He’d short-armed Milne through midwicket earlier, but didn’t have that pace to work with from Mitchell and ended up forcing it too much.

Suryakumar’s is a different case. When the eventually- washed-out second ODI was shortened to 29 overs, he was in his element, working the ball around and finding the boundary with ease. But in the other two ODIs, with plenty of time left, he edged tamely to the same deepish slip position. He stands in an open stance with his front foot on off-stump, and his trigger is to drag it across to the middle-stump. It still leaves him more front-on than side-on, caught on the crease and feeling for the ball with an angled bat not suited for defence, especially in such conditions; he wasn’t able to get behind the line and almost precision-guided the ball to the catcher in both innings.

Deepak Hooda never looked comfortable with the nip in the pitch. He tried moving exaggeratedly outside off- stump in an effort to get behind the line, but that left him in awkward positions against the short ball banged into him, one of which he soon gloved to the ’keeper.

Silver lining

It was due to Iyer and Washington that India posted 200-plus. Dropped at third man on 6 off a slash to Matt Henry, Iyer progressed otherwise unhindered to make 49 amid the collapse. He played strokes of a man in form, driving firmly through the covers and down the ground. There were some powerful cuts and pulls, before he lofted Ferguson straight to the sweeper, the scrambled seam having made the ball hold a bit.

Coming in at Iyer’s exit at 121 for 5, Washington showed another side to his batting range, and has surely done enough to be a useful option in this format going forward, along with the T20Is that he is preferred for. In the first ODI, he had intelligently played with the field at the death to make an unbeaten 37 off 16. In Christchurch, he dug in to make a solid 51 off 64. There wasn’t much to be ramped or scooped, unlike in Auckland, but he made sure his straight pushes fetched him runs, even when he wasn’t really attacking. He reached his fifty swinging Tim Southee over deep midwicket for six.

In the chase, Arshdeep Singh in particular troubled Finn Allen and Devon Conway at the start, extracting liberal movement. But Allen rode his luck, edging between first and second slips and slicing over the cordon. Arshdeep could have had him on 16, but Washington misjudged a top edge at fine leg.

As the movement dissipated gradually, Deepak Chahar was attacked by Conway when he overpitched, conceding four fours in an over. Umran Malik went the other way – he bowled too short, and at times wide, and was taken for some easy boundaries.

Allen fell against the run of play to Malik in the 17th over for 57 off 54 and an over later, the rain became strong enough to prevent further play at 104 for 1. Just two more overs, and we would have had a result, with New Zealand way ahead – by 50 runs – on the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern (DLS) score.