Thirush Kamini's unbeaten 62 guided India to a nine-wicket win over New Zealand. © Wisden India

Thirush Kamini's unbeaten 62 guided India to a nine-wicket win over New Zealand. © Wisden India

On an overcast Wednesday (July 8), it was as though only one team turned up at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore in a match that was almost an antithesis to to how the series had panned out.

India and New Zealand Women came into last game of the five-match One-Day International showdown with the series all square at 2-2. Any expectations of an intriguing climax, however, were emphatically dashed.

India’s bowlers reaped the reward for a disciplined show on a flat deck to bowl out New Zealand, who had opted to bat, for 118 in 41 overs. Rajeshwari Gayakwad, India’s best bowler in the series, came to the fore again with 2 for 15 off eight overs. Jhulan Goswami’s experience was evident as she picked up 2 for 17 in eight overs, while Deepti Sharma, the offspinner, took 2 for 22 in seven overs.

That New Zealand got to 118 was courtesy Suzie Bates, who led from the front with a patient 85-ball 42 but, with the middle order faltering, was left waging a lone battle.

In reply, Thirush Kamini (62 not out off 78) cracked a blistering half-century, and in the company of Deepti (44 not out) took India home comfortably with a rapid second-wicket stand worth an unbeaten 103 unbeaten. India needed just 27.2 overs to scale the 119-run target down, reaching 121 for 1 with 136 balls to spare.

Afterwards, Bates expressed her disappointment at not being able to capitalise after taking a 2-1 lead in the series. “We wanted to finish off the job. Even after we went up 2-1, we knew we still had a job to do. Credit to India for the way they came out in the fourth one-dayer; they really took it to our bowlers and they improved dramatically from the first three games. We can’t take anything away from there,” she said.

India began the chase aggressively, with Smriti Mandhana cracking three consecutive boundaries in the third over of the chase sent down by Lea Tahuhu.

But Morna Nielsen, the left-arm spinner, elicited a simple return catch off a full ball to send Mandhana packing as India headed to the lunch interval at 27 for 1 in seven overs.

Both Kamini and Deepti were patient upon resumption. Kamini broke the shackles with a boundary over long-off against Anna Peterson to set the tone. After that, the boundaries flowed freely as Kamini attacked relentlessly. Four boundaries in four balls in the next over by Amy Satterthwaite followed, each struck with power and precision.

Kamini blasted a boundary almost every over thereafter, unafraid to charge down the track, even with several attacking fielders inside the circle as she knocked the stuffing out of New Zealand’s bowlers. In the 11 overs that after resumption, India had already collected 45 runs

A rare maiden by Bates followed but India struck three more boundaries in the next over by Nielsen. Deepti had quietly marched on, her innings put in the shade by Kamini’s fireworks but she joined in the act too, smashing three boundaries off her next three balls.

Kamini collected her half-century with a neat to down third-man for a boundary in the 24th over, to the delight of the small crowd. Frustration crept in – Sophie Devine had a go at Kamini, needlessly hurling the ball back after fielding it on her followthrough – as New Zealand lost the plot.

With two needed, Kamini charged down the track for a typically powerful smack off Peterseon over long-on. Devine ran across and put in the dive but couldn’t get her hands to the ball which crossed the rope.

Earlier in the day, New Zealand’s innings began with an untoward run-out of Rachel Priest that served to upset plans early on. Bates had played out five dot balls in the first over by Goswami before she took off for a single that was never there. Priest reluctantly responded but the moment’s hesitation cost them as Gayakwad’s throw from midwicket to R Kalpana, the wicketkeeper, proved good enough.

Goswami then had Satterthwaite caught behind four overs later, and with the score reading 33 for 2 at the end of the mandatory Power Play, it was a job well begun as far as India were concerned.

India then lost the opportunity to really turn on the heat when Ekta Bisht spilled a straightforward chance at point off a cut from Devine, promoted to No. 4. Bates and Devine gradually steadied the ship the first signs of aggression came through a six over long-off by Devine off Deepti.

It’s not often that teams get away after dropping the opposition’s best batter of the series. Fortunately for India, Devine fell before she could inflict any significant damage, trapped leg before by Harmanpreet Kaur for 18 as the association ended at 49.

Gayakwad then struck in consecutive overs, even as Bates continued to display tremendous composure, trying to hold her end up and not allowing the flow of runs to stagnate. But support in some form was needed. Part of a lack of it was a result of her own doing as another call for a quick single after a gentle push towards point resulted in Leigh Kasperek being caught short of her crease.

Bates admitted that the way the New Zealand middle order handled the Indian spinners was a matter of concern. “The way they (India) batted in the last two games, and the intent and the courage they showed to hit the ball down the ground is something we can learn from,” she said. “We’re not as used to playing on these wickets and understanding where our areas are to hit, so we need to get better as a whole team, not just the middle order. It’s not an excuse but back home, the ball comes on, the ball doesn’t turn that much, and we back ourselves to hit through the line, whereas here, we were a little tentative as a group.”

Any hopes of still putting together a fightback came crashing down when Bates holed out to cover off Bisht when a flick induced a leading edge to leave New Zealand tottering at 101 for 7 in 33.1 overs.

Attacking fields were a constant thereafter as India sought to wrap up the innings in quick time. Peterson, the No. 8, showed defiance with 22 off 39 balls before she was the last batter dismissed. But on a pitch that still had runs on offer, it was scant compensation after an abject surrender.