India produced a clinical performance to bury the ghosts of the last match and turn the humiliation into triumph as they defeated New Zealand in the fifth and final ODI at Westpac Stadium in Wellington. With this win, the men in blue have won the five-match series 4-1. Reeling at 18/4 in the 10th over, India’s middle-order came up with a strong batting show, courtesy Ambati Rayudu’s brilliant 90 to take the tourists to a competitive 252. In the bowling department, Yuzvendra Chahal once again emerged as the pick of the bowlers for Team India as he scalped 3 wickets, Mohammed Shami, all-rounder Hardik Pandya also contributed with two wickets each to derail Kiwi chase. (IND vs NZ – 5th ODI Highlights) Also Read - PSL 2021: Fawad Ahmed of Islamabad United Tests Positive For COVID-19, PSL Match Delayed For Two Hours

Rayudu was well supported by all-rounder Vijay Shankar (45 runs), who scored a brilliant 45. Both of them knitted a crucial 98-run stand and weathered a hostile spell of fast bowling by Kiwi pacers. Later, it was all Pandya show as he played a magnificent cameo of 45 runs off just 22 deliveries that helped India cross the 250-mark. Pandya’s innings included 5 huge sixes and 2 boundaries, he scored at a mind-boggling strike-rate of 204.55. (SCORECARD) Also Read - Virat Kohli is Like Modern Day Hero, Represents New Attitude of India: Steve Waugh

New Zealand batsmen, including skipper Kane Williamson (39), squandered their starts in the chase but the home team remained in the contest until Jimmy Neesham (44 off 32) was dismissed in the 37th over. His freak run out, which was affected by the ever so sharp MS Dhoni from behind the stumps, came after an lbw appeal was turned down. New Zealand eventually ended with 217 in 44.1 overs despite Matt Henry’s unbeaten 17 off 9 in the final overs.

Irrespective of the game’s outcome, Rayudu played one of the most significant knocks of his career and made a compelling claim for a World Cup spot.

At the toss, skipper Rohit Sharma called the eight-wicket loss in the previous game ‘humiliating’ and embraced the challenge of batting on a testing surface by opting to bat. With top-four falling cheaply, it looked Rohit’s brave call backfired but Rayudu and Shankar produced an innings-reviving stand under immense pressure.

Pacer Henry was the standout bowler for the hosts, taking four wickets for 35 runs while Trent Boult picked up three for 39. After being bowled out for a paltry 92 in the fourth ODI, India had a point to prove.

The visiting team made three changes in the playing eleven. A fit-again Dhoni was back in the team in place of Dinesh Karthik while Shami and Shankar replaced Khaleel Ahmed and Kuldeep Yadav. The chinaman bowler was rested from the game. The ball swung at the Westpac Stadium, like it did at Hamilton, and troubled the Indian batsmen, including the experienced opening pair of Rohit and Shikhar Dhawan.

Boult, who took five wickets on Thursday, and Henry swung the ball at express pace and shared two wickets each to leave India reeling at 18 for four in seven overs.

It was a combination of top-class fast bowling and questionable shot selection that led to the top-order failure. Rohit (2) was outdone by a beauty from Henry, the one that moved away from the middle stump line to dislodge the off-stump.

Dhoni (1), playing Sunday’s match after the missing the last two games due to injury, was bowled by Boult, off a peach of a delivery that swung back sharp and late to take the Indian wicketkeeper’s off-stump.

On the other hand, Dhawan (6) slashed one hard to be caught at third man while the young Shubman Gill (7), getting his second game of the series, scooped a simple catch to the cover fielder.

Just when India looked down in the dumps, Rayudu and ahankar showed admirable fight to weather the storm and lead India’s recovery. Initially, in the partnership, Shankar looked more comfortable while Rayudu focused on blocking.

The Tamil Nadu all-rounder was sent ahead of Kedar Jadhav at number six, indicating the team management’s faith in his abilities. It was unfortunate for Shankar to miss out on a well-deserved fifty as he got run out after a mix-up with Rayudu.

Rayudu at the other end began to play his strokes and hammered Colin de Grandhomme for two consecutive boundaries to bring up his 10th ODI fifty. A little later, he smashed Colin Munro for successive sixes before he perished while trying to hit another one out of the park. Rayudu’s crucial knock comprised eight fours and four sixes.

Pandya then took the centrestage after Rayudu’s fall and once again showed what he brings to the table late the innings.

Pandya’s brute power was on full display when he whacked leggie Todd Astle for three sixes in as many balls. The all-rounder did not even spare the in-form Boult, pulling him over mid-wicket for another maximum. His cameo included two fours and five sixes.

(With PTI Inputs)