New Zealand’s plan against spin failed dramatically as India bounced back in Pune after the Mumbai debacle to level the series at 1-1.
Tom Latham fell to the sweep in Pune. India had a plan for him this time. After he’d swept the two wrist spinners off their feet and feasted on them at the Wankhede, Virat Kohli decided to knock it off the menu for Latham. Instead he offered him the quick-paced and flatter likes of Axar Patel and Kedar Jadhav, spinners who do not quite provide the trajectory for a batsman to confidently get down on his haunches. So when Jadhav was brought on right after the power-play, it wasn’t so much a move to please his hometown fans, but a ploy to derail Latham’s original plans.
The diminutive Kiwi left-hander, of course, did not put it away completely, and tried his go-to shot against Jadhav on a few occasions, but not to the same effect as he had done a couple of nights ago.
Round-arm and with most deliveries coming at him almost parallel to the pitch, Jadhav made sure Latham’s few attempted sweeps were mainly miscues. Patel’s darts towards the stumps from around the wicket meant that Latham had to play the sweep, keeping in mind that he was putting his stumps and pads in danger. He nearly missed once before finally being cleaned up, losing his middle-stump in fact, to Patel. Kohli did bring Yuzvendra Chahal on towards the end of Latham’s innings, but by then he had lost all momentum and wasn’t batting or sweeping with any conviction, even against the wrist-spinner. The plan had worked perfectly.
India did have other heroes during their comfortable victory at the MCA Stadium to level the series on Wednesday. There was Bhuvaneshwar Kumar who rocked the New Zealand top-order with a mix of swing and seam within the first 10 overs. Then came Shikhar Dhawan, who started where he left off before his break during the Australia series, stroking a fluent half-century and Dinesh Karthik, who at least on the basis of his 64 not out in Pune seems to have answered India’s No.4 riddle for now. India eventually chased down 231 with four overs to spare.
But somehow, it was in plotting Latham’s dismissal that the Indians showed exactly why they have become a winning-machine of late across all formats. It’s something that Kohli’s team have done in Tests and ODIs in recent times, winning from different and dire situations. They have come from behind to win Test matches, like against Australia in Bangalore, or found a late-order hero in Kumar during an ODI in Pallekele where they looked down and out.
Latham had thrown the gauntlet of sorts with his sweeping in Mumbai. And India needed only three days to find an answer and beat him at his own game. Latham’s dismissal also came at a crucial time in terms of the match situation. The pitch—which came under great scrutiny following the controversy surrounding the curator hours before the match—was a Pune pitch which seemed to have runs on offer. And New Zealand had won an important toss to possibly put up a big score in what was a must-win match for the hosts.
But Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah nipped their aspirations in the bud within his first three overs, removing the two most prolific batsmen in the New Zealand ODI side. Martin Guptill fell for the umpteenth time in his career after being guilty of hanging his bat out to a ball moving away from him.
Then Bumrah exposed Kane Williamson’s early issues against the ball darting into him, getting the Kiwi captain to miss an attempted flick and trapping him lbw. Colin Munro, the Kiwis’ big hope, drove at a ball that pitched and nipped back into him. Ross Taylor soon become the latest victim to Hardik Pandya’s short ball.
That left Latham to stitch an important partnership with Hamish Nicholls. They put 60 together and looked to be setting up a perfect launch-pad for the likes of Colin de Grandhomme and Mitchell Santner. It also meant Kohli couldn’t hold Chahal back any longer and had to throw his leg-spinner the ball. And Latham’s dismissal to the sweep not only meant that it will be he who will have to come up with a new plan next time around in Kanpur; but also that the visitors’ hopes of bringing a premature end to the series received a premature knockout blow.
Brief Scores: India 232 for 4 (Dhawan 68, Karthik 64*) beat New Zealand 230 for 9 (Nicholls 42, de Grandhomme 41, Bhuvneshwar 3-45) by six wickets.