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PUNE: India produced a clinical performance under pressure to beat New Zealand by six wickets in a must-win game and level three-match series 1-1 here on Wednesday.
Paceman Bhuvneshwar Kumar (3/45) led an inspired Indian bowling effort to restrict New Zealand to a modest 230 for nine. Later, Shikhar Dhawan (68 off 84 balls) and Dinesh Karthik (64 not out off 92) struck timely half-centuries, enabling the hosts to complete the chase in 46 overs.
The series decider will be played in Kanpur on October 29.
There was a slight doubt whether the second ODI here will go ahead as planned after pitch curator Pandurang Salgaoncar was suspended for allegedly agreeing to tampering with the pitch in a TV sting operation.
However, the game began on time after ICC match referee Chris Broad inspected the pitch.
India, who had to bounce back following their shock loss in the series opener, proved their mettle with an all-round effort.
The chase was comfortable for India despite losing Rohit Sharma cheaply for the second time in the series.
Dhawan was back to his best and played shots all around the ground en route to his 22 ODI fifty. His sublime innings comprised five fours and couple of sixes including the one he hit over midwicket.
The southpaw shared a 57-run stand with Virat Kohli (29) before adding 66 runs with Karthik, who too played a valuable knock.
Karthik, playing at number four after coming in at five in the previous game, grabbed the opportunity with a ninth ODI fifty.
After Dhawan’s departure, Karthik and Hardik Pandya (30) forged a 59-run stand to secure the game for their team.
Earlier, Kumar produced a fine swing bowling display while his pace colleague Jasprit Bumrah (2/38)) and young leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal (2/36) picked up two wickets apiece as Indian bowlers came out determined after being asked to bowl.
Left-arm spinner Axar Patel (1/54) too justified the team management’s decision to play him in place of Kuldeep Yadav, by removing the well settled Tom Latham (38).
The Indian bowlers had New Zealand under their mercy from the onset, picking up wickets at regular intervals to reduce the visitors to 58 for four inside 16 overs.
The hosts did not allow the New Zealand batsmen to settle down at the Maharashtra Cricket Association stadium.
New Zealand suffered a disastrous start as Kumar and Bumrah wreaked havoc by removing their first three batsmen inside the opening seven overs.
Kumar gave perfect start to India by removing the opening duo of Martin Guptill (11) and Colin Munro (10) quickly.
Bumrah then had skipper Kane Williamson (3) LBW, leaving the visitors tottering at 27 for three.
While Guptill nicked one to Mahendra Singh Dhoni behind the stumps, Williamson was trapped in front of the wicket by Bumrah with New Zealand struggling at 25 for two.
The visitors reviewed Williamson’s decision but that went in vain.
Munro, who hit a towering six during his brief stay, was the next to depart as Kumar went through his defence.
In-form Latham and Ross Taylor (21) too failed to repeat their last match’s exploits when they conjured a 200-run stand in a winning cause.
Taylor, who struck two fours and looked in set for a big knock, was dismissed by Pandya in the 16th over as the right-handed batsman edged one to Dhoni while trying to hook a Pandya delivery.
Latham stuck just two fours, a cut and a pull, and partially tried to steer his side out of trouble with his trademark sweep and reverse-sweep shots.
But the southpaw’s stay was cut short when he was bowled by Patel across the stumps while the batsman went for a sweep.
Henry Nicholas (42) and Colin De Grandhomme (41) then tried to resurrect the Kiwi innings by adding 47 runs for the sixth wicket before the partnership was broken by Kumar.
Chahal then took two consecutive wickets in the 44th over by dismissing Grandhomme and Adam Milne (0) to stand in chance for a hat-trick which didn’t happen.
Towards the end, Mitchell Santner’s 38-ball 29 and Tim Southee’s unbeaten 25 helped New Zealand reach the 230-run mark.