Auckland, Jan 25: Ravindra Jadeja very nearly pulled off a sensational victory with some lusty hits but could not take India home in the last over as the third one-dayer against New Zealand ended in a nail-biting tie to keep the visitors afloat in the five-match series here today.
Chasing New Zealand's stiff target of 315 largely built around opener Martin Guptill's 111, India came back from the dead to tie the game, riding on R Ashwin's 65 and Jadeja's 45-ball unbeaten 66 to save themselves the blushes of another overseas ODI series defeat.
In the thrilling dying moments of the game, India needed 18 off Corey Anderson's last over for a victory but Jadeja and last man Varun Aaron could get 17 to tie the game on a good batting track at the Eden Park.
The visitors needed just two runs off the last ball but Jadeja could manage just a single. Though India could not win the match, they can still draw the five-match series by winning the remaining two matches in Hamilton (January 28) and Wellington (January 31).
The tie also ensured that India remained in the number one position in the ICC ODI rankings, having regained it yesterday following Australia's defeat to England in the fourth one-dayer.
Put into bat for the third time in a row, New Zealand piled up 314 with Guptill scoring his fifth ODI century and useful contributions from Kane Williamson (65) and Luke Ronchi (38).
The score could have been much bigger had there not been not a minor collapse towards the end of the innings which pegged the Kiwis back to some extent.
The Indians got off to a fairly good start but Shekhar Dhawan (28) and Rohit Sharma (39) again squandered the start to let the team down badly.
The quick dismissals of the in-form Virat Kohli (6) and Ajinkya Rahane (3) served as a huge jolt for the visitors who suddenly slumped to 79 for four from 64 for no loss.
Captain Dhoni (50) and Suresh Raina (31) stitched 67 runs for the fifth wicket to keep India in the hunt. Ravichandran Ashwin and Jadeja than put on 85 runs for the seventh wicket to raise hopes of a stunning victory. Today's match was Dhoni's 250th international as India skipper.
New Zealand innings report
India recovered some lost ground towards the end but New Zealand still scored an imposing 314 all out, riding on Martin Guptill's century.
The Indian bowlers produced a much better performance in the death overs and did not allow the Black Caps to run away with a massive total by taking three quick wickets between the 43rd and 44th overs.
Ross Taylor (17), Nathan McCullum (1) and Luke Ronchi (38) were out in the space of nine balls to put brakes on New Zealand's push for a huge total.
It was a different experience for the Indian attack this time around, conceding only 81 runs in the last 10 overs.
Only 33 runs had come off the second power play with two wickets lost therein, and it had set up this good finish for the Indians.
Guptill's fine 129-ball 111 and Kane Williamson's 74-ball 65, however, took New Zealand to 314 all out in their stipulated 50 overs at the Eden Park.
Guptill hit 12 fours and two sixes and put on 153 runs for the second wicket with Williamson even as the Indian bowlers fought back to bowl the hosts out.
It was a much improved bowling performance from the visitors, who are 0-2 down in the five-match series and are desperate to win their first ODI in the last six matches overseas.
Mohammad Shami (2/84) and Ravindra Jadeja (2/47) were the pick of the bowlers, with Bhuvneshwar Kumar (1/48), Varun Aaron (1/52) and R Ashwin (1/47) chipping in with a wicket each.
Raina (0/26) went wicket-less in his four overs.
MS Dhoni won his third straight toss of the series and once again opted to chase.
India dropped Ishant Sharma for Varun Aaron while the Kiwis brought in Hamish Bennett for Kyle Mills. Right-arm paceman Aaron had played last of his 4 ODIs in December, 2011.
Trailing 0-2 in the five-match rubber, India need to win today to keep the series alive. Also, a defeat here would strip them of the top ODI rank which they reclaimed yesterday.
Despite failing to take a wicket in the series, offspinner R Ashwin continues to be backed by captain Dhoni and the team management.
Suresh Raina, who injured his left elbow during practice yesterday, was fit to play.
India lost the first ODI by 24 runs and the second by 15 runs (Duckworth/Lewis method).
New Zealand: Brendon McCullum (captain), Martin Guptill, Jesse Ryder, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Corey Anderson, Luke Ronchi (wicketkeeper), Nathan McCullum, Hamish Bennett, Tim Southee, Mitchell McClenaghan.
India: MS Dhoni (captain and wicketkeeper), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Varun Aaron, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar.