New Zealand corrected their batting woes of the series so far, by posting a challenging total of 300/7 thanks to a blistering knock from James Franklin who top-scored with an unbeaten 98 off just 69 balls and some substantial innings from Martin Guptill who made 30, Brendan McCullum who notched up 42, Scot Styris who made a breezy 46 and Ross Taylor who departed for 44.
After playing a circumspect first over against India speedster Zaheer Khan, Kiwi openers Martin Guptill and Brendon McCullum got stuck into Praveen Kumar taking three fours of him in the second over. McCullum knocked off a boundary each in the following two overs and then in the 6th mustered up the gumption to send Kumar over mid-on for a six.
First change bowler R Ashwin, who was introduced in the 8th over, too came in for some stick, conceding a boundary to each opener. The next over was even more dramatic with Guptill blazing two fours off Nehra before holing out to Yuvraj Singh at mid on. Guptill was out for a quickfire 30 off 25 balls and New Zealand were 62/1 in 9 overs. Nehra struck again in his next over, removing How for 4 and the Kiwis were wobbling at 70/1 in 10.1 overs.
The new man to take guard Ross Taylor, just needed a few balls to settle in before getting Ashwin away for a four. But it was a dicey shot, going fine just wide of slip. But McCullum had thrown caution to the wind and in the 12th over, smacking Nehra for two more fours.
In the fifth ball of the over, Nehra thought he had got his man caught behind only to see that the umpire had signaled the ball wide. But it was Ashwin who would have the pleasure of seeing McCullum's back when in the subsequent over, he came back from being swept for a four to having the batsman caught by Rohit Sharma at midwicket for 42 off 42 balls. The Kiwis were going at over 6 an over, but had been pegged back to 94/3 in 14 overs.
The run-rate dropped a tad thereafter, but Taylor and Scott Styris kept up the momentum, taking their side to over 100 in 16th over and over 120 by the 20th over. At the end of 25 overs, New Zealand were motoring along nicely at 138/3. Taylor brought up the Kiwi's 150 in the 27th over by hitting a four off Yuvraj and then running a double.
A couple of overs later, Styris went after Yuvraj, lofting him for a huge six back over the bowler's head. But his flourishing stand with Taylor came to an end in the next over. He got Pathan away for a four, but was snapped up at long leg two balls later for 46 off 48 balls. Styris had played the middle-order role well and had set up the innings for a big total.
In the 35th over, James Franklin took New Zealand past the 200-run mark with a pair of contemptuous fours off Pathan. But Taylor couldn't stick around for much longer and was trapped plumb in front to Ashwin for 44 of 73 balls. New Zealand were looking slight shaky at 210/5 in 37.1 overs. But with captain Daniel Vettori at the other end, Franklin kept the scoreboard cantering along. In the 42nd over, he smacked Ashwin for two boundaries, one a square cut and the other a drive past mid on.
Just before the Kiwis crossed the 250 mark, Vettori got out bowled to Pathan for 17 runs off 19 balls. But with new batsman Kyle Mills, Franklin pressed ahead and brought up his 50 off just 48 balls in the 44th over. Pathan pegged back the visitors a bit when he bowled Kyle Mills for 1.
With the end of the innings nearing, Franklin cut loose, lofting Ashwin for a huge six over extra cover in the 46th over. Then in 47th over, Franklin and new batsman Nathan McCullum, each took a four off Pathan and scurried four more singles, taking their side to 273/7 with three overs remaining.
Then the batsmen took 11 runs off Nehra in the 48th over and the Kiwis were within striking distance of 300 at 285/7. Franklin then biffed several big hits including two sixes and two fours of Nehra in the last over to take his side over 315/7 in 50 overs.
India are faced with quite a stiff ask. A lot will depend on how good a start the side gets. Gambhir and Vijay will once again have to come out blazing and Vierat Kohli will have an important part to play later on, as well as the rest of the middle order.