Ross Taylor guides Black Caps to series win
Captain Brendon McCullum rated it higher than away series wins against South Africa and England in 2013, as New Zealand claimed their big cricketing prize in an Indian summer.
Led by their batting kingpin Ross Taylor, who notched his ninth ODI century, New Zealand clinched the one-day series against the world champions with a game in hand at a packed Seddon Park last night.
They overhauled India's 278-5 with 11 balls to spare in a seven-wicket victory in the fourth ODI, as their team song Black and White later thundered out from the home dressing room.
It left New Zealand 3-0 up heading to the finale in Wellington on Friday night, a scarcely believable prospect 10 days ago with the top-ranked ODI side pitted against No 8. Those rankings are now two and seven.
This was indeed one of the Black Caps' best ODI series victories, a breakthrough for this team who played good one-day cricket but had a reputation for bottling it at the big moments. There were hints of that in Auckland when the sides tied an epic game three, but last night was a composed run chase of a team with a winning formula who believed they were better.
"This is the big one for us. We're proud of what we achieved in South Africa and England, but this is the No 1 team in the world and a dominant batting line up," McCullum said.
They did it without their destructive allrounder Corey Anderson who was sidelined with general soreness and may be put on ice again in Wellington with the series safe.
A near full house of 8927, which looked almost double that and was dominated by Indian support, was near silent at the end.
Taylor was savage on the cut in his 15 boundaries and ended 112 not out, ably backed by Kane Williamson (60) who notched his fourth successive half-century. McCullum, coming off successive ducks, had some early jitters but swung hard at the end for 49 not out, ending with a huge six in probably the proudest moment of his 13-month captaincy reign.
"We've closed out a series which we've talked about all the way through the summer. How emphatically we did it in really tough conditions, with guys keeping their heads and playing innings of true class was really satisfying."
McCullum rated India's total as about 10 runs above par on a dry pitch that was the most Indian-like of any in the country.
There was some urgency when Jesse Ryder - who started breezily but again couldn't pass 20 - and Martin Guptill departed in successive overs.
When Williamson faced a brute of a first over from Ravindra Jadeja, a maiden including two that turned viciously, this looked no simple task.
New Zealand had the right pair at the crease, potentially their country's top-two runscorers by the end of their careers. Both proven players of spin and undaunted by the occasion, they chipped away with skill and precision, adding 130 for the third wicket.
Williamson's been great to watch this series and averages 68 from four innings. Dancing down the wicket with confidence, he again produced some crackers with his extra cover six off Ambati Rayudu the pick.
Earlier, India changed their battle plan when MS Dhoni won his fourth successive toss and batted first on the same strip used six day previous. Opener Shikhar Dhawan was dropped and the message to the other batsmen was clear: be more careful and keep wickets in hand.
Senior bowlers Kyle Mills and Tim Southee set the tone with deadly accurate spells and India's top order couldn't resist the short ball. Promoted opener Kohli perished softly in the fourth over to a loose hook at Southee, while Ajinkya Rahane and the recalled Rayudu also hooked out.
New Zealand's death bowling got a severe test in the absence of Anderson and Mitchell McClenaghan who got a rest.
Dhoni and Jadeja, the Eden Park assassin, waited patiently to launch then plundered 100 off the final 10 overs, their unbroken sixth wicket stand worth 127 as Hamish Bennett and Jimmy Neesham got a rough ride.
Scoreboard from fourth ODI between New Zealand and India at Seddon Park, Hamilton:
R Sharma c Ronchi b Williamson 79
V Kohli c Neesham b Southee 2
A Rahane c Southee b Mills 3
A Rayudu c Ronchi b Bennett 37
M Dhoni not out 79
R Ashwin c Bennett b Southee 5
R Jadeja not out 62
Extras (lb 4, wd 7, nb 0) 11
Total (for 5 wickets, 50.0 overs) 278
Fall: 1-5 (V Kohli, 3.2), 2-22 (A Rahane, 8.2), 3-101 (A Rayudu, 25.3), 4-142 (R Sharma, 32.3), 5-151 (R Ashwin, 33.1)
Bowling: K Mills 10-2-42-1, T Southee 10-1-36-2 (2w), H Bennett 9-0-67-1 (3w), J Neesham 8-0-59-0 (1w), N McCullum 10-0-44-0, K Williamson 3-0-26-1.
M Guptill lbw Shami 35
J Ryder b Aaron 19
K Williamson run out (Jadeja) 60
R Taylor not out 112
B McCullum not out 49
Extras (b 1, wd 3, nb 1) 5
Total (for 3 wickets, 48.1 overs) 280
Fall: 1-54 (J Ryder, 7.2), 2-58 (M Guptill, 8.1), 3-188 (K Williamson, 34.2)
Bowling: B Kumar 10-0-62-0, M Shami 8-0-61-1 (1w), V Aaron 6.1-0-51-1 (1w), R Jadeja 10-2-33-0, R Ashwin 10-0-41-0 (1w, 1nb), S Binny 1-0-8-0, A Rayudu 3-0-23-0.
Result: New Zealand won by seven wickets