Taylor-made series victory for small fry
The Black Caps struck a blow for the little guys of world cricket in Hamilton last night.
Led by a masterful unbeaten century from Ross Taylor, New Zealand beat India by seven wickets in their one-day international at Seddon Park to clinch a memorable series win.
As India sought to strengthen their already dominant position as cricket's leviathan, minnows New Zealand sent a timely reminder that the underdogs shouldn't be overlooked.
A draft proposal currently in front of the International Cricket Council (ICC) board at a meeting in Dubai is designed to give Indian cricket the loudest say in the game's governance and the vast majority of its income.
But New Zealand struck an on-field blow for those countries expected to be handicapped by the proposal's plans in front of almost 9000 spectators.
Hamilton-based Taylor's wonderfully-crafted 112 not out from 127 balls guided NZ to an unassailable 3-0 series lead ahead of Friday's finale in Wellington. Captain Brendon McCullum added 49 off 36 balls as India's fielding crumbled in the face of defeat, with the skipper slamming the match-winning runs with a statement six.
Afterwards, McCullum said while the off-field rumblings were above his station, he hoped New Zealand's displays had raised some eyebrows.
"It's way above our heads," McCullum said of India's boardroom powerplay, with likely backing from Australia and England.
"But what we can do is go about playing good cricket and try to impose ourselves on the world game I guess and show that we're capable of playing against the very best teams in the world and having success.
"I wouldn't say it's a motivating factor for it - but we're just delighted to be able to play against a team of that class, come out on top and show the rest of the world that we are a very good team in our own conditions."
That's probably even underselling his side - New Zealand also has away ODI series wins over South Africa and England in the past 13 months. But McCullum said there was just simple joy in beating "a very very good team in India".
"And today as well in these conditions - I thought it was more favourable for them than what it was for us.
"To do it as emphatically as what we did and continue the blueprint that we built with the bat around Roscoe and Kane's performances in the last four games ... to get the rewards for it is incredibly satisfying
There was no surprise when Indian captain MS Dhoni won yet another toss yesterday, but he did spring a major shock in electing to bat first for the first time in the series and for the first time in 20 games outside of Asia when calling correctly.
That gave game four a different complexion from the previous matches in the series, which saw the Black Caps set the tourists testing targets that they hadn't managed to pass.
McCullum said New Zealand's batting blueprint didn't change when chasing, with a focus on partnerships, capped off with late power hitting.
"I think the winning of the series has been how we've got to that power situation," he said, heaping praise on Taylor and Kane Williamson, who scored his fourth consecutive half-century as the duo added 130 for the third wicket.
"How they've played throughout this series has allowed us to get to the 35-over mark. Sometimes we've capitalised and sometimes we haven't, but the cricket we've played to get there has been high class."
Williamson made 60 off 82 balls and Taylor was chiefly unobtrusive while still being able to stop the required run-rate from climbing to lofty heights. He found the boundary regularly without over-reaching, with the majority of his runs coming through the off-side.
New Zealand were led with the ball by their opening pair of Kyle Mills and Tim Southee, but the inspirational Dhoni - in tandem with allrounder Ravindra Jadeja - produced some powerful hitting in the dying stages of India's innings.
Dhoni, who is undeniably his team's talisman as well as leader, had a ludicrously impressive ODI batting average prior to yesterday's game of 52.80 from 241 matches. He improved that by making an unbeaten 79 off just 73 balls (six fours and three sixes), finishing the innings by depositing a huge six over wide long-on for six off Jimmy Neesham.
Jadeja contributed a classy 62 not out of only 54 balls (eight fours, two sixes) as India tallied exactly 100 off their final 10 overs. The duo added an unbroken 127 for the sixth wicket in 16.5 overs after opener Rohit Sharma had earlier made a streaky 79, with India reaching 278 for five.
Mills took 2-42 off 10 accurate overs on a slow wicket while Southee ended with 2-36 off his full complement that saw him bowl in the latter batting powerplay.
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