In the 33rd over of India’s chase, with the asking rate shooting up with every passing ball like a tampered taxi-meter, Mahendra Singh Dhoni made room and hit Nathan McCullum towards long off and scurried off. As he was coming back for the second run, Matt Henry’s throw from the deep caught him flush in the back. It must have hurt but Dhoni returned to the crease with a smile.
It was the softest blow that Matt Henry landed on the India captain on Friday evening. By that point, the fast bowler had accounted for three of India’s four batsmen — Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane and Ambati Rayudu — to knock the wind out of the visitor’s sails. He would take one more wicket, that of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and finish with figures of 4 for 38. All this, the 22-year-old achieved in his debut game.
His was one of the key performances on the night, along side those of usual suspects Ross Taylor, who hit another century, and Kane Williamson, who smashed yet another half century, as NZ blanked world champions India 4-0 with a comprehensive 87-run victory in the fifth and final ODI on Friday. It’s a performance that will surely rank alongside their best results in recent times — such as their 3-0 win in the 2006-07 Chappell-Hadlee Trophy over the then world beaters, Australia.
Captain Brendon McCullum, who was part of that memorable series, rated his team’s latest triumph even higher. “From an ODI point of view, this series is the most satisfying I have been a part of. India arrived here as the No.1 team and not many expected us to compete with them, let alone get a series whitewash. We are delighted with the way we played in this series, especially on the back of fine performances from Ross and Kane, and also the way the bowlers stepped up. Over all it’s a groundbreaking series for us,” he said after the match.
For India, this defeat must be humbling, not just because of the aggressive posturing by their board off the field. The South Africa tour was always going to be a tough affair, therefore the defeats there didn’t rankle as much. But New Zealand? Weren’t they supposed to roll over against India’s mighty bats, on pitches which have become decidedly flatter over the years?
To be fair, the pitch at the Westpac Stadium wasn’t