Vadodara: Continuing his good run of form, Indian skipper for the series Gautam Gambhir, cracked his 9th ODI century and remained unbeaten to decimate New Zealand bowling attack and register a series winning 9-wicket victory in the third ODI after Indian bowlers bowled beautifully to restrict Kiwis to paltry 224 at the Reliance Stadium here.
Gambhir, who cracked unbeaten hundred in the last ODI too in Jaipur, continued from where he left and plundered runs all over the park at will.
Both Indian openers- Murali Vijay and Gambhir- looked in fine touch as they milked toothless Kiwi bowling from the start and whacked plenty of boundaries during their first wicket stand.
Gambhir (126 not out) was more attacking of the two and used his feet well, both to fast bowlers and spinners, and never allowed anyone to settle.
Gambhir and Vijay put on 115-run stand for the first wicket and just when it looked that both players would take India home without any loss, calamity struck in the form of run-out.
Vijay (30), who cracked three boundaries and a gigantic six over long- on, miscalculated a risky single and was caught short of crease by a direct-hit from Daniel Vettori.
After Vijay’s dismissal, Virat Kohli (63 not out) came onto crease and impressed everyone with wide range of strokes, cracking four boundaries and in the process reaching his 10th ODI fifty.
Kohli dispatched Kiwi Pacer McKay over long-on for six to bring the contest to close in 40th over, a shot which triggered huge celebration in Indian camp as they also take an unassailable 3-0 lead in 5-match ODI series.
Earlier in the day after winning the toss and choosing to bowl first, Indian bowlers made merry of the useful conditions and plundered New Zealand top-order collapse before James Franklin and Nathan McCullum added vital 94 runs for eighth wicket partnership to give New Zealand total some respect as Kiwis ended their innings for 224/9 courtesy fine bowling and superb fielding by Team India.
Franklin, who was drafted in the final New Zealand squad for Tim Southee, became the unlikely saviour for Black Caps as he made 72 runs without getting out and took his team to compatible score.
Bolstered by the return of pace spearhead Zaheer Khan, India drew the first blood early when the fast bowler nailed Kiwi wicket-keeper Brendon McCullum early in the first over for no score to send early jitters to New Zealand camp.
McCullum, who returned in New Zealand XI after an injury, looked completely out of sorts facing first delivery and poking it to second slip where M Vijay made no mistake.
India then dismissed in-form Martin Guptill for 12 after he scored a boundary and a six in Zaheer Khan’s third over but succumbed to excellent fielding by skipper Gambhir as he broke down the non-striker stumps by a direct-hit as Guptill miscalculated a risky single to mid-on.
Indian fast bowlers then tied down New Zealand batsmen with immaculate line and length and just when it looked that Kiwi pair of Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson was looking to build a partnership, Zaheer induced an inner-edge of Taylor to reduce Black Caps tottering at 34/3.
Local boy Munaf Patel too came to party as he trapped young Williamson plumb in front of wickets to give New Zealand fourth shock of the day and dash Kiwi hopes of building a good total.
After the fall of fourth wicket, veteran Scott Styris and James Franklin tried to re-work on building partnership but with spinners coming on to bowl on Vadodara track, Kiwi middle order could not hold on long to evade them.
Styris was first to depart from the duo as he edged Ashwin’s delivery down to leg slip where Yuvraj Singh pouched a neat low catch.
Another local boy, Yusuf Pathan, then registered his presence and nailed Kiwi skipper Daniel Vettori and wicket-keeper Gerath Hopkins in almost identical positions as both batsmen edged the turning deliveries to slip and leg-slip respectively to get caught by Yuvraj and end their miserable stay at the crease.
India made two changes to their side, with pace spearhead Zaheer Khan coming in for rested Sreesanth and both all-rounders- Yusuf Pathan and Ravindra Jadeja- finding way in the team.
India: Gautam Gambhir (Capt), Murali Vijay, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Yusuf Pathan, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), R Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel and Ravindra Jadeja.
New Zealand: Daniel Vettori (Capt), Martin Guptill, Brendon McCullum, Kane Williamson, Scott Styris, Ross Taylor, Gareth Hopkins (wk), Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Andy McKay and James Fanklin.