NEW DELHI: Team India produced a clinical display to register a crushing 9-wicket win over New Zealand in the third ODI and seal the 5-match ODI series 3-0 at the Reliance stadium in Vadodara on Saturday.
Chasing a paltry target of 225 runs, openers Gautam Gambhir and Murali Vijay added 115 runs for the opening wicket to give India a blistering start against New Zealand in the third ODI.
India attained the target with 63 balls to spare. Gambhir also stitched a century partnership with Virat Kohli.
Skipper Gautam Gambhir raced to his ninth ODI century and lead India’s run-chase against New Zealand. This was Gambhir’s second ton on the trot as he slammed 13 fours during his 88-ball century knock.
India lost Murali Vijay (30) in the form of first wicket, who was well on course to score a half-century, as he got run out on a direct hit in search of a cheeky single.
Earlier in the day, James Franklin led New Zealand’s revival with a fighting unbeaten half-century as the visitors recovered from a poor start to post 224 for 9 against India in the third one-day international.
Down 0-2 and faced with a must-win situation, the visitors made a shocking start by losing their openers within the first five overs and were struggling at 106 for seven before Franklin (72 not out) and Nathan McCullum repaired the innings with a stand of 94.
The left-handed Franklin batted sensibly after coming in at 49 for 4 in the 16th over even as continued to tumble from the other end.
He top-scored for the Black Caps with the help of five fours and one six in 108 balls while McCullum made 43 in 53 balls with four fours.
Their eighth-wicket stand off 107 balls took the score to 200 after the Kiwis had lost half their side for 77.
Apart from the eighth wicket pair, only opener Martin Guptill (12) and Scott Styris (22) reached the double figures in a largely uninspiring display put up by the Kiwis after they were asked to bat first by the hosts.
For India, Zaheer Khan (2/31), Yusuf Pathan (2/37 and R Ashwin (2/49) shared six wickets among them while Munaf Patel chipped in with one scalp.
The pitch for the match was a major surprise at a venue that normally provides flat tracks. There was a lot of bounce for the pace bowlers and bounce and turn for the spinners.
New Zealand batsmen, having played on low bouncing tracks after coming to India in early November, were undone by the extra bounce.
Zaheer Khan utilized the bounce to the fullest extent in his splendid first spell of seven overs as he made early inroads into the Kiwi top order.
Coming off after a three-week lay-off, the left-arm paceman struck in the second legal ball of his first over when he prised out danger man Brendon McCullum, who also came into the series after missing the opening two ties because of a back problem.
McCullum was caught in second slip by Murali Vijay off a rising ball that moved away a shade.
It was a huge blow as the Kiwis were hoping for a big knock from the hard-hitting batsman which was not to be. The scorecard read 2/1 which became 19/2 due to an needless run out of in-form opener Martin Guptill.
Guptill, after on-driving Zaheer imperiously for the first six, went for a quick single after driving the ball behind the bowler but was beaten by a quick dash, pick-up and throw from mid-on by India captain Gautam Gambhir, who unerringly hit the stumps at the non-striker’s end.
New Zealand could not recover from the loss of the openers as Zaheer and Munaf Patel, who bowled a tight opening spell of 8-0-15-1, kept them on a tight leash though Ashish Nehra disappointed.
Zaheer sent back Ross Taylor to deal a further blow to New Zealand’s hopes, reducing them to 34 for three just past the 10th over.
Munaf then saw the back of Kane Williamson (21) by trapping the youngster to leave the visitors gasping at 49 for four in the 16th over.
The going was tough but with the field opening out, there was a brief stand of 28 for the fifth wicket between tall Franklin, brought into the side in place of Tim Southee, and Scott Styris.
But Styris, who survived a tight run-out appeal, was dismissed by off spinner Ravichandran Ashwin after failing to keep down a flick. He was caught in the leg trap by Yuvraj Singh and half of the side was back for a paltry 77 after 23 overs.
Franklin punished Ashwin by striking the bowler for two fours in an over but the run-rate was well under the desired figure.
He saw his captain Daniel Vettori depart in the next over, the first bowled by local hero Yusuf Pathan who was playing for the first time in his home town, caught at slip trying to cut the off break bowler and the innings was in total disarray.
The 100 of the innings came up after the 28th over was completed and New Zealand promptly lost their seventh wicket soon after the landmark was crossed.
The next batsman to depart was Gareth Hopkins, caught in the leg trap off Pathan.
Franklin, in company of Nahan McCullum, slowly and calmly built the innings and their eighth wicket stand was largely responsible for giving the New Zealand score a healthier look.
McCullum was sent back by Ashwin in the 48th over while Kyle Mills, who hit some lusty blows before he was run out off the last ball.
India made two changes in the eleven that won the second ODI at Jaipur on December 1, bringing in Zaheer Khan and Ravindra Jadeja for S Sreesanth and Suresh Raina.
New Zealand also made a couple of changes, bringing in the fit-again Brendon for Jamie How and Franklin for Southee.(Agencies)