Chennai:New Zealand were at the receiving end of another humiliation as a hapless batting performance sealed and their lowest score against India sealed a 0-5 whitewash, their first in a five-match series since 1984-85. On a dry pitch susceptible to the influence of the overcast weather, New Zealand were keen to make the most of initially favourable batting conditions, but their edginess against pace at the start of the innings, and capitulation to spin later on, ensured their misery in ODIs continued.
The pitch offered limited assistance to the bowlers and was not responsible for the domination that India showed; New Zealand's inability to survive perhaps was. The seamers were crafty enough to make use of the hint of swing and movement available early on, the spinners, led by R Ashwin, varied their lengths, pace and worked the angles well to prove more than a handful against the middle and lower orders.
Praveen Kumar's control and Ashish Nehra's quick recovery from a Brendon McCullum onslaught in his first over set up India. Praveen earned his prize straight away, beginning with three straightish deliveries before getting one to nip away and prompt a fatal poke from Martin Guptill. Nehra had a contrasting start, struggling for line and length, dragging one short to be dispatched over square leg and providing width to be slammed through the off side for two boundaries. McCullum's aggressive posture, characterized by his advances down the wicket as well as moving well across to look for scoring opportunities, promised an entertaining counterattack. But it caused his downfall instead, as he shuffled across to Nehra and was done in by the inswing to be caught on the pads plumb in front, leaving New Zealand 14 for 2.
The pitch largely behaved itself for the duration of the innings and the Indian bowlers, for their part, provided reasonable opportunities to ease the pressure. Ross Taylor looked confident, piercing the field with some delicious drives past mid-off, but his stay ended with an instinctive attempt at a pull against Nehra, and the ball scraped the glove on the way to Parthiv Patel. Jamie How appeared on course to lend some respectability to what's been a miserable series with some lovely flicks off his pads and Scott Styris seemed determined to get the innings back on track, but the steadiness that they had painstakingly brought to the innings was obliterated by spin.
The slow bowlers were expected to play a prominent role as the day wore on and it didn't take long for Yuvraj Singh to step into the act. In the 17th over, after having built a stand of 43 with Styris, How tried to play across the line and was bowled as the ball straightened. Styris misread the length and played the sweep, almost as an afterthought, against Ashwin in the next over to be caught plumb. And Grant Elliott, included in the line-up to strengthen the batting, made no impact, failing to read the straighter one from Yuvraj to be lbw.
Three wickets in three overs, and the departure of Daniel Vettori to a catch at slip not long after indicated New Zealand were in a hurry to finish the game even before the weather, overcast and ominous, was given a chance to intervene. Sure enough, Kyle Mills' inability to read Ashwin's carrom ball and Tim Southee's gifting a catch to short leg marked a sorry end to a line-up that bats deep.
The early wickets of the in-form Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli were the only consolation as New Zealand succumbed to a 0-5 battering, with their World Cup preparations in disarray following a bitter experience in two recent assignments in the subcontinent. India, for their part, have been boosted by the successful return of Yusuf Pathan, the consistency of Ashwin while consecutive fifties from Parthiv Patel have further spiced up the selection race for the World Cup.