There have been situations when a match would turn on its head, thanks to a peach of a ball. But a poor shot can also cost the team and one saw it at the Green Park Stadium here on Monday. Luke Ronchi, having frustrated the Indians with his defence, suddenly went into an attacking mode, lost his wicket and eventually New
Zealand the match. The thumping 197-run win gave India the lead in the three-match series with R. Ashwin emerging the wrecker-in-chief with his skills that left the New Zealand batsmen dazed, especially the dogged Mitchell Santner, who became a classic off-spinner’s victim. Introspection would leave Ronchi a despondent man for he trashed all his good work with one bad shot. New Zealand began the day with its back to the wall. Heroics were needed and were possible when Ronchi and Santner resumed their fight by showing the application needed at that stage. It was a huge task to bat out the day but the two displayed the much-needed iscipline and India found itself faced with a situation where it was desperate to get a breakthrough. Clouds in the distance threatened to come towards Green Park but a bright sun brought cheer in the stands and the contest developed. The intensity was visible in both the camps. There were appeals galore and a sudden hush in the galleries meant the New Zealanders had hit a forcing stroke. For Ronchi and Santner it was obviously an arduous journey to keep their wickets intact but they looked determined. That one tactless moment from Ronchi gave India the breakthrough. He may or may not have shut India out with his batting. He may or may not have perished the ball after he did. But the Kiwi would rue the stroke. It was a slog, unwise and imploding, that caused despair in the New Zealand dressing room. After showing exemplary patience and temperament, Ronchi let go a swipe befitting the last ball of a limited-overs match. The ball, aimed for a long-on finish, flew high in an arc for Ashwin to gleefully accept the offering at point. Fittingly, it was the Jadeja-Ashwin combination that tilted the day’s proceedings India’s way. Ronchi had managed to keep the spinners at bay. From 38 overnight he had progressed to 80. He was dictating the battle with a dedicated partner in Santner. Their partnership for the fifth wicket was worth 102 runs. Once the dent was inflicted, New Zealand’s resilience crumbled as the lower half lacked the calibre to last the day. New Zealand batted 20.4 overs since Monday morning before Ronchi’s dismissal and 29.5 after that. Ashwin, having scalped three on the fourth day, added three more to fittingly bring the end with some swift strikes. Partnerships of 36 and 27 in the New Zealand lower half were not enough to deny the victory which came 14.3 overs after lunch. Jadeja was adjudged the ‘man-of-the-match’ but Ashwin was the one who toiled on the final day to strike the winning chimes for the fans, who had braved the heat and humidity for five days to back a young team to play to its potential. The off-spinner bowled in three spells, the first two of eight and four proved wicketless before he found his rhythm in the next spell of 7.3 overs. He added three wickets to take his match haul to 10 to complement his 40 in the first innings.Jadeja — with unbeaten contributions of 42 and 50 and and six wickets, including five in the first, — was a worthy claimant to the best player-of-the-contest honours. The match over, in a significant indication of what can transpire at Eden Gardens in the next match, Shikhar Dhawan had open ‘nets’ on the match-pitch with Anil Kumble bowling to him. Meanwhile in the New Zealand camp, Mark Craig, suffering a side strain, has been replaced by Jeetan Patel.