Rohit and Gill outdo Conway as India go No. 1 with 3-0 series win

SUMMARY: India 385-9 (Gill 112, Rohit 101, Pandya 54, Tickner 3-76, Duffy 3-100) beat New Zealand 295 (Conway 138, Nicholls 42, Thakur 3-45, Kuldeep 3-62, Chahal 2-43) by 90 runs


New Zealand restricted India to 385 after an opening stand of 212 at over eight an over, but India’s bowlers kept picking up regular wickets to scuttle a chase that was alive until the 37th over, which was the first time they let the asking rate go past nine an over.

This was only the fifth time in ODIs that three openers scored hundreds in the same match, each a stunning innings scored with enough time available to convert them into doubles.

With the 3-0 series win, India moved to No.1 in the ICC ODI rankings to go with the top spot in T20Is. India will be satisfied they did it while defending with two of their best bowlers in this series, Mohammed Siraj and Mohammed Shami, rested.

Hardik Pandya provided the opening blow in their absence and Kuldeep Yadav remained a wicket-taking threat in the middle overs, but it was Shardul Thakur‘s triple-strike in the 26th and 28th overs that broke the back of the chase.

This was always going to be a tough day for the bowlers: Indore has a flat pitch, small boundaries and a quick outfield. Rohit SharmaShubman Gill and Devon Conway made the most of the conditions, scoring 351 runs between them in just 263 balls. India hit 19 sixes and New Zealand 13 as bowlers were forced to figure out ways to survive.

It was Rohit’s first century in three years, and Gill’s third in four innings. Rohit went past Sanath Jayasuriya’s 270 sixes to reach No. 3 on the all-time list, Gill equalled the record for most runs while playing three or fewer matches in an ODI series: 360. While Rohit and Gill batted, India looked set to have a shot at the first 500 in ODIs.

Two double-centuries in an innings didn’t look out of reach either as both of them reached their hundreds in the 26th over.

The bowlers’ task became apparent in the third over when Rohit clipped Jacob Duffy past midwicket at no great pace, but the ball kept getting away from the chasing fielder.

In Duffy’s next over, the pitch presented itself in all its beauty. Gill hooked a short ball over long leg for a big six without going hard at it, and Rohit drove a short-of-a-length ball down the ground for a six that was higher than it was long.

Lockie Ferguson, who had bowled a maiden and conceded only six runs in his first three overs, was then taken for 22 runs in his fourth. Apart from one full-toss, he didn’t bowl a single bad ball. Gill just trusted the pitch and used the quick outfield.

It was now almost a competition. Rohit responded by taking 17 off the tenth over, both hooking and charging at Duffy. As Gill hit fours with a leg glance and an extra-cover drive to bring up his fifty, Rohit matched it with two sixes off Mitchell Santner to bring up his own.

Pushes went away for fours, mis-hits sailed for sixes, and the batters flicked from outside off and hit sixes without reaching the pitch of the ball. Most of the shots, though, were just sweetly timed. One ball that properly summed it up for bowlers was when Daryl Mitchell got excited when Rohit hit one high in the air, but was left frustrated when it cleared long-on.

Mitchell was bowling possibly because New Zealand didn’t want to feed offspinner Michael Bracewell to the two set right-hand batters. When Bracewell finally came on, Gill welcomed him with a chipped four over extra cover and a massive slog-swept six to join Rohit in the 90s.

Rohit got the century in 83 balls, Gill in 72. Once there, they tried to go even quicker. Rohit tried to put Bracewell in the stands but missed a full, straight delivery. Gill kept going after the bowling, pulling Blair Tickner for a six before getting out to the slower bouncer.

What perhaps helped New Zealand’s comeback was that India’s incoming batters tried to bat in a manner that would do justice to the start, thus taking risks that the older, softer ball perhaps didn’t merit. For Rohit and Gill blazed away effortlessly in the first 26. They had hit 22 fours and 10 sixes by then. When they batted, the pitch looked too flat, the ground too small and the outfield too quick.

With wickets falling as slower balls gripped in the surface, Pandya had to delay the final charge. When it arrived, it was spectacular as Pandya and Thakur took 57 in overs 46 to 49.

Still New Zealand had taken 9 for 173 in the last 24 overs. Even though they were chasing a total bigger than has ever been chased in India, it didn’t look like an intimidating task on the evidence of how easy batting had become in the back half of the first ODI.

Even though Pandya sent back Finn Allen in the first over, Conway performed the dual role of taking New Zealand into the back half with wickets in hand and keeping the asking rate under control. Conway had to take more risks than Gill and Rohit, but they came off at an alarming rate for India.

Pulls, slog-sweeps and reverse-sweeps all flew away for runs. When he missed, he missed entirely. When he wasn’t close to the ball, he made sure he went hard because there was every chance he would clear the small ground.

Even when he was cramping, Conway kept slog-sweeping with abandon. At the halfway mark, Conway was 108 off 78, and New Zealand had eight wickets in hand to score 8.08 an over. Enter the profligate Thakur. He is the least economical bowler with at least 50 ODI wickets, but he also has a strike-rate of nearly two wickets every 10 overs.

That is because he has the license to attack with his lengths. He did just that, getting Daryl Mitchell with a bouncer, Tom Latham with a knuckle ball first up, and Glenn Phillips with another short ball.

Now it was about Conway’s wicket, which came through a pull drilled straight into the midriff of Rohit at midwicket. However, India knew from experience that it is not over until you get Michael Bracewell. Kuldeep did that with a deliberate wide down the leg side with Ishan Kishan making up for a missed stumping earlier. Now it was really over. (ESPNcricinfo)

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