Just as their flying start had promised, New Zealand chased down the target of 297 quite comfortably in the third ODI at Mount Maunganui, their middle-order wobble notwithstanding. Colin de Grandhomme, who had only single-digit scores on this tour so far, smashed India out of the contest with a blazing unbeaten 58 off just 28 balls just when things were getting tight for the hosts. In doing so, he ensured KL Rahul’s ton went in vain as India were consigned to their first whitewash in a bilateral ODI series in over 30 years.Before de Grandhomme’s fireworks though, New Zealand had got themselves into a spin. From a position of great control, afforded to them by Martin Guptill and Henry Nicholls’s contrasting fifties, they lost their way as India rode on the excellent performances of their spin duo – Yuzvendra Chahal and Ravindra Jadeja to fight back into the game.Chahal was particularly impressive, which he needed to be on a pitch that had lost its sting for India’s pacers by the time the second innings rolled by. Where Kyle Jamieson and Tim Southee thrived with the new ball, Navdeep Saini and even Jasprit Bumrah to an extent got hammered.In fact, the highlight of Guptill’s rapid start came against Bumrah, who extended his wicket-taking drought today. He picked one up from back of a length in the seamer’s first spell and pulled it into the crowd. Having seen a ball that wasn’t short met with such disdain, Bumrah went fuller the next ball and was met with the most imperious off-drive that was crunched down the ground.If Bumrah’s predicament wasn’t always his own doing, Saini and Shardul Thakur had no one else to blame. Both of them bowled in the extremes – either straying way too short or way too full.It was in this desperate situation that Kohli turned to Chahal, who immediately produced a dream leg-break to get rid of Guptill – the ball drifting in on leg to open him up and then taking off stump.Nicholls still held firm at the other end though as the hosts cruised along. But Chahal struck again, his innocuous leg-break to remove Kane Williamson setting off a flow of events in motion where New Zealand were put under the squeeze. Jadeja played his part, eliciting a soft drive from Ross Taylor who was dismissed for the first time in the series. When Nicholls fell to a loose delivery in the very next over, having played the anchoring role in his knock of 80, the heat was on as the equation came down to 74 off the final ten overs.Given New Zealand’s recent penchant to crumble under pressure, India might even have felt on top. But Tom Latham and de Grandhomme changed that. Kohli had run out of his spinners’ quota by this point, and he had too many overs left out of Thakur and Saini, who didn’t improve in their ways and were whacked around the park as de Grandhomme feasted on short balls, on slower balls and on leg-side gutter balls to seal the win with ease.But in their defence, if there can be any, Saini and Thakur didn’t get the exact same conditions that New Zealand got. Already boosted by the return of regular captain Williamson, the hosts also won a good toss and then made early inroads when the ball was nipping around. The movement was evident immediately when Kyle Jamieson produced a beauty to castle Mayank Agarwal in the second over. The ball was slanted in towards middle and leg, but straightened upon hitting the seam to hit the top of off. Agarwal didn’t help his own cause though – his bat coming across the line looking to hit towards midwicket, capping off a disappointing series which calls for a rectification in mindset going into the Tests.Virat Kohli didn’t have a much better series either, his average of 25 being his worst series average in over five years. The Indian captain couldn’t resist going after the width from Hamish Bennett, only to send a thick top-edge to third man where Jamieson took a fine catch.Prithvi Shaw counter-punched briefly, and looked really good doing so. His back foot punches were crisp, the cuts were flamboyant and he took the short ball on with aplomb as well. But after a sparkling little knock, he was run out after a poor call for the second run. Inspite of no hesitation on his part, he still was well short of the crease as de Grandhomme returned a good throw from fine leg.India were wobbling. But KL Rahul went on to make another big impression in an already blossoming middle-order rearrangement, scoring India’s first hundred at No. 5 or lower since MS Dhoni back in 2017. Rahul’s hundred once again displayed his great range, as it did in the two previous 80s he’s scored since the chance opportunity at Rajkot against Australia after Rishabh Pant’s concussion. Rahul took 67 balls for his fifty, before taking just a further 38 to double that score.With the side in trouble at 62/3, Rahul began in recovery mode, playing second fiddle to Shreyas Iyer, who also continued to solidify his No. 4 spot with another impressive performance. It was Iyer who kept India’s momentum going, while Rahul bided his time. As the ball started getting older, the pitch started appearing flatter.So Iyer took his chances when the opportunities presented themselves. He didn’t back away from taking the aerial route against the likes of James Neesham and Mitchell Santner. He brought up his fifty with a couple of back-to-back fours off Jamieson, getting there at close to a run-a-ball that belied the game situation he had entered in.Rahul took over after Iyer’s soft dismissal and, along with Manish Pandey, picked up the pace leading into the final 10 overs. However, the final flourish that the duo were primed for never really came. India scored just 93 in the final 13 overs, leaving many runs out there which could’ve been useful to amplify the pressure Chahal had built. But it wasn’t to be.Brief Scores: India 296/7 in 50 overs (KL Rahul 112, Shreyas Iyer 62; Hamish Bennett 4/64) lost to New Zealand 300/5 in 47.1 overs (Henry Nicholls 80, Martin Guptill 66, Colin de Grandhomme 58*; Yuzvendra Chahal 3/47) by five wickets.

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