Five hundred was not impossible. But 400 was definitely up for grabs. That’s what a 212-run opening blitz, the highest against New Zealand in ODIs, does to expectations. Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill hit quick hundreds in the process and India picked up 200 in just 24.1 overs but still finished on 385 from 50 overs in the third ODI at Indore on Tuesday.
New Zealand initially tried to keep up the chase, thanks to a fantastic hundred from Devon Conway, but Shardul Thakur dismissed Daryl Mitchell and Tom Latham in the 25th over before Glen Phillips was taken out in the 28th over, causing a collapse that put their weak exposed middle order. . Mitchell Santner and Michael Bracewell again resisted, but this time the wrist-spinner duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal destroyed the lower order to give India a comprehensive 90-run victory and a 3-0 clean sweep of the ODI stage .
With Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj rested, this was another good bowling performance that may be overshadowed by India’s batting power. But Sharma pointed that out during the post-match presentation.
“We wanted to bring Chahal and Umran (Malik) into the mix, put pressure on them,” he said. “We had runs on the board, but none are totally safe in this kind of terrain. We stuck to the plans, kept our nerves. Shardul has been doing this for a while so some people call him a magician. Every time I’ve given Kuldeep the ball, he brings wickets. Just give him more games under his belt because wrist spinners get better the more they play.
Records tumbled as long as Sharma and Gill were batting. With his 30th ODI hundred, Sharma’s first in this format in 1100 days, India’s captain equaled Ricky Ponting on the all-time list, just behind Sachin Tendulkar (49 centuries) and Virat Kohli (46).
Gill amassed 360 runs with this innings to level with Babar Azam (against West Indies, 2016) as the highest runs catcher in a three match ODI series. This was India’s second-fastest 200 in ODIs, propelled by a run rate of 8.10 for the first wicket, fourth-highest for a 200-plus opening stand in men’s ODIs and highest batting first.
As flat as it gets in this part of the world, the Indore pitch was ideal for playing through the line. Equally lightning fast was the outfield leading to some of the shortest boundaries when compared to Indian locations. Sharma and Gill took a moment to get their attention before leaving with a six each in the fifth left. Initially, Gill played the aggressor. Lockie Ferguson got off to a good start, bowling a maiden and conceding just six in three overs. But Gill hammered him for four, four, four, six and four to milk Ferguson for 22 runs. Sharma took 17 from the 10th over, Gill scored 10 again in the 16th over, all in clean hits. India picked up 100 in 76 balls, 150 in 107 balls and 200 in 145 balls. India was ready for something special, it seemed.
Luck also played a role. Thick edges flew past the wicketkeeper’s gloves for four, inside edges missed the stumps and mishits sailed into the stands for six. But it was also a day when both batters hit the ball well. The drives were sharp, the late cuts were agile, Gill hooked and pulled majestically while Sharma often came down the lane to lift the ball over the bowler’s head. Nothing could go wrong until Sharma was bowled clean after missing a massive hit against Michael Bracewell. Next, Gill Blair Tickner was mistaken on the point in Conway.
It was a strange passage of time for India. With over 20 overs to go, the incoming batters had plenty of time to adjust to a slower pitch. But Kohli, Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav tried to keep up the pace with mixed results. It played into the hands of New Zealand as they quickly put the brakes on India’s scoring rate with the slower bowlers. From 250 in 32 overs, India could only add 135 in the next 18. The lack of border hits was the main reason. There were 22 fours and 11 sixes hit between openers. The rest of the at bat accounted for just 11 boundaries and eight sixes.
Despite all the record-breaking batting in the first half of the innings, India also inexplicably slowed down, scoring just 55 between the 31st and 40th left, with just five boundaries for the loss of three wickets. But India hits deep. So Hardik Pandya came in at number 6 and scored fifty off 36 balls in a mature innings as the wickets continued to fall at the other end. That and Thakur’s 17-ball 25 helped India close to breaking that 400-run barrier.