India post 278 for five in 4th ODI

India post 278 for five in 4th ODI

India post 278 for five in 4th ODI

Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja produced magnificent late onslaught after opener Rohit Sharma scored a half-century, to help India post 278 for five in the fourth one-dayer against New Zealand here today.

The visitors lost their top order quickly, but Rohit rebuilt the innings with a 94-ball 79, before Dhoni (79 not out) and Jadeja (62 not out) put on a fighting 127-run stand for the unbroken sixth wicket to set a target of 279 for the Kiwis in what is a must-win game for India to keep the series alive.

India are trailing 0-2 after losing the first two ODIs and tying the third game in this five-match series.

For the hosts, Tim Southee (2 for 36) was the pick of the bowlers, while Kyle Mills (1 for 42) provided an able support.

Kane Williamson (1/26) and Hamish Bennett (1/67), too, picked up wicket apiece but the latter was very expensive.

Earlier, Dhoni won the toss and opted to bat, a change from the team's usual policy in the first three ODIs on this tour. They also made two changes, dropping both Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina, and bringing in Ambati Rayudu and Stuart Binny, who was handed his first ODI cap.

In the absence of Dhawan, Virat Kohli came out to open the innings with Rohit Sharma. India got off to a very slow start as the Black Caps kept a tight leash and runs only came in a trickle.

In the fourth over with only five runs on the board, Kohli (2) got frustrated by this non-scoring and went after a short delivery from Southee, mistiming his pull to be caught at mid-wicket by Neesham.

Ajinkya Rahane (3), too, moved up the order, coming in at number three, and he also became a victim of runs-not-flowing. He pulled straight to Southee at fine-leg off Mills.

Rohit took his time settling in but he was lucky to have survived a couple of dropped chances.

Rohit faced a majority of the deliveries, while Rahane only faced four out of 19 balls leading up to the ninth over, even as the strike was not rotated. It was the second time in four matches that Rahane was out off a short ball.

Things were looking bad for India at 22 for 2 when Ambati Rayudu walked in to bat for the first time in an ODI since the tour of Zimbabwe in mid-2013.

Together with Rohit, he started re-building the innings with India crossing the 50-run mark in only the 17th over. But once set, the two batsmen sped up their run-scoring, bringing up their 50-run partnership in the 22nd over.

Rohit cut loose with a flurry of boundaries, hitting three fours and three sixes, as he brought up his 21st ODI fifty off 72 balls, while India crossed the 100-run mark in the very next over.

Not to be left behind, Rayudu too sped up, hitting two sixes and three fours in his 58-ball stay at the wicket. The batsmen put on 79 runs for the third wicket as the run-rate shot up to 4.60 per over, with the last 41 runs of their pairing coming in 32 balls.

Against the run of play then, Rayudu got out in the 26th over, becoming the third batsman on the day to lose his wicket to a short delivery. His pull off Bennett was mistimed and he only looped it up for keeper Luke Ronchi to claim it easily. He scored 37 runs, but looked good for many more.

Dhoni walked in and hit Williamson for a six straightaway. Rohit too carried on but did not curb his strokes. He hit three more fours and another six, going up to 79 runs (94b, six fours, four sixes) when disaster struck.

He opened the bat-face to a Williamson delivery going down legside, and Ronchi latched on to it in his second chance. Troubles were compounded when nine runs later, just as India crossed the 150-run mark in the 33rd over, Auckland's hero R Ashwin (5) was out caught at third man, cutting a short and wide delivery from Southee.

Eden Park's other hero joined Dhoni in the middle and together with his skipper resurrected the Indian innings. Their first challenge was to not lose any more wickets, especially in the batting powerplay. They scored just 24 runs in those five overs.

Jadeja was more aggressive of the two to begin with but as the innings entered the last 10 overs, they both opened up gradually, playing attacking strokes and looking for big runs.

The tactic worked very well for India as they brought up their 50-run partnership off only 55 balls in the 43rd over, and then three overs later, Dhoni completed his second consecutive fifty -- his 54th in ODIs overall -- off 58 balls.

Jadeja, too, brought up his 8th ODI half-century off only 46 balls.

They scored 100 runs in the last 10 overs, making sure that India didn't lose any more wicket for the last 16.5 overs at a run-rate of 7.54 per over, as Dhoni finished the innings off in style, hitting a massive six off Neeshan and staying unbeaten on 79 (73 balls, six fours, four sixes). Jadeja was 62 not out (54b, 8X4 2X6).

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