Advertisement

The man standing in the way of NZ history

The Black Caps can achieve something they've never done before on Saturday - but first they need to stop Virat Kohli

New Zealand will attempt to win their first ever one-day series on Indian soil on Saturday knowing the key to success lies in how quickly they can dismiss Virat Kohli.

The prolific right-hander has unquestionably been the difference between victory and defeat in the series which moves to the south-eastern coastal town of Visakhapatnam to break the 2-2 deadlock.

India won the first match in Dharamsala when Kohli scored an unbeaten 85 and took the third in Mohali after he anchored a tremendous run chase with a brilliant 154 not out.

Quick single: NZ level series despite Kohli century

But the Black Caps drew level each both times after Kohli fell for nine in the second match in New Delhi and was caught behind off Ish Sodhi for 45 in Wednesday's fourth game in Ranchi.

Even though limited-overs captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni hit a typically belligerent 80 off 91 balls in Mohali and Ajinkya Rahane top-scored with 57 in Ranchi, India have largely depended on Kohli to lead the way.

Dhoni genius not enough as NZ level series

Particularly galling has been the poor form of star opener Rohit Sharma, the only batsman to hit two double-centuries in one-day cricket, including a world record score of 264.

Sharma's scores of 14, 15, 13 and 11 have cost India dearly in the absence of one-day regulars Shikhar Dhawan, Lokesh Rahul and Suresh Raina, who have all been sidelined due to injury or illness.

Dhoni, however, rubbished suggestions that India was a one-batsman team and urged fans and critics to show patience with the young middle-order.

"Stats actually don't reflect the exact scenario," Dhoni, who promoted himself to number four in the last two games, said after the Black Caps drew level in his home town of Ranchi.

"We have got quite a few batsmen who can do the job. It's just that we have to give them more time. Batting down the order is one of the toughest things to do.

"Whenever you go in, there will be pressure to rotate the strike and there will be pressure to get some kind of a partnership going. So, they'll need time. It's not easy.

"You don't get a player who's complete, who bats at No. 5, 6 or 7, all the time."

The 35-year-old World Cup-winning captain said the young players in the team needed time to settle down in the big league.

 

Kohli, Dhoni too good for Kiwis

"These youngsters will learn," he said. "A few of them will look to play big shots, but they will play 10-15 games and learn their own way and figure things out for themselves.

"Cricket has evolved. The newer generation likes to play the big shots. You cannot tell them not to, because then they will get into a shell and it is difficult to get out of that.

"We will lose a few but they will learn. We must not put a lot of pressure on them."

Meanwhile, New Zealand opener Martin Guptill, who returned to form with a dazzing 84-ball 72 in Ranchi, said the equalizer had given his team confidence going into the decider.

"It was a good fighting victory," he said. "The bowlers did a fantastic job up front getting rid of Rohit early and then when India had a partnership together, Ish (Sodhi) came and broke that by taking Kohli's wicket.

"I think the way Ish and (Mitchell) Santner bowled, it was top draw and absolutely world-class bowling to arguably the best players of the spin in the world."

Meg Lanning Steve Smith