In The Middle In Order To Combat The Elevators Of India, 252 > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more

Cricket news - Middle order fight lifts India to 252

Ambati Rayudu top scored with 90

He looked ungainly with his shot-making for the first half of the innings but, importantly, Ambati Rayudu helped India avoid a batting landslide with his 113-ball 90 setting the platform for India's total of 252 in the fifth ODI in Wellington on Sunday (February 3). After India suffered another top-order collapse, reduced to 18 for 4, Rayudu partnered with Vijay Shankar and Kedar Jadhav for stands of 98 and 74 respectively that led the visiting side's recovery. Despite Matt Henry's strikes in the death overs, Hardik Pandya's blistering 45 off 22 deliveries helped India finish with a competitive total.

India's decision to bat first was questionable considering that there was swing on offer early on, with skipper Kane Williamson even mentioning at the toss that he would have preferred to bowl anyway. If it was an experiment to put the Indian batsmen up against testing conditions, the outcome would have disappointed the team management as the top-order couldn't deliver for a second game on the trot. New Zealand's pace combo of Matt Henry and Trent Boult kept posing questions and eventually reaped rewards as India lost their openers early. Rohit Sharma was bowled by a Henry delivery that held its line as he failed to score a century for the first time in eleven series. Shikhar Dhawan couldn't clear the third-man fielder while attempting an upper cut off Boult as India lost two wickets inside the first six overs.

With three changes to their side - MS Dhoni replacing Dinesh Karthik, Vijay Shankar included in place of Kuldeep Yadav and Mohammed Shami coming in for Khaleel Ahmed - India had strengthened their middle-order batting by opting for an extra all-rounder in place of a bowler. And the middle-order had a role to play very early in the innings as Dhoni had to arrive at the crease as early as the seventh over after Shubman Gill failed to keep a drive down off Henry. However, Dhoni's stay turned out to be a short one as well, cleaned up Boult shortly after surviving a leg-before review.

Shankar, who was batting for the first time in ODIs, endured a testing spell from Boult and Henry before it became slightly easier against the likes of James Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme. Rayudu was taking his time, scoring at a strike rate of less than 20 for his first 35 deliveries while Shankar was a bit more proactive as he rotated the strike well and also cashed in on the loose balls. After the partnership crossed the fifty mark, Rayudu managed to break the shackles, with a four and a six off de Grandhomme in an over, but he was treading a risky line with his shot selections. He managed to survive, though, and put on 98 runs in partnership with Shankar before a mix-up ended in the latter's run out for 45.

New Zealand, meanwhile, had done a good job of keeping India's scoring rate in check as Rayudu brought up an 86-ball half-century. But the batsman managed to put the New Zealand bowlers under some pressure with positive batting. Put down by Boult in the deep off Munro, Rayudu capitalised as he employed the slog sweep for a couple of sixes and also found the ropes regularly before falling to Henry. There were some fireworks from Pandya in the death overs as he struck three successive sixes off Todd Astle in the 47th over and also cleared the fence off Boult and Neesham. After some umpiring blunders in the penultimate over - no-ball not being called for a high bouncer and Pandya's failure to ground the bat not being spotted initially - Pandya's blitz came to an end as India finished with a touch above 250.

Brief scores: India 252 in 49.5 overs (Ambati Rayudu 90, Hardik Pandya 45, Vijay Shankar 45; Matt Henry 4-35, Trent Boult 3-39) vs New Zealand.

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