SK Elite: Jadeja 66 vs NZ in the tied match, Auckland
Want to watch a thriller? Eden Park Auckland is the place, at least in recent years. Even though there is so much talk about the short boundaries at Eden Park, it has produced some thrillers – be it high-scoring or low-scoring. The 2015 World Cup games - New Zealand vs Australia (group stage) and New Zealand vs South Africa (semi-final), the tied game against India in 2014, the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy in 2017 are a few recent thrillers, among several others.
And Ravindra Jadeja was a hero of one such thriller at Eden Park. Back then, he was given the name ‘Sir’ Ravindra Jadeja by Mahendra Singh Dhoni. He was Dhoni’s go-to bowler. He picked wickets, bowled economically, finished his overs in a jiffy and made some useful contributions coming in at No. 7. After a dream 2013, he started the New Zealand series sedately as he picked up 2 wickets in 2 games but didn’t contribute much with the bat.
Already 2-0 down in the series and on the brink of losing the series, India opted to field again considering the flat surface and short boundaries in the third ODI. The Kiwis ended with 314 after being 189-1 in the 32nd over. India led by their spinners pulled things back nicely towards the end.
India, who had built a reputation of being chase masters, had fallen marginally short in two successive run chases (ending up with 268 chasing 292 in the first ODI and 277 chasing 292 via DL). So, it was going to be an interesting run chase.
The Men in Blue started off positively as the openers gave a brisk start adding 64 in about 9 overs. But a mini collapse followed as they lost 4 wickets for a paltry 15 runs in about 7 overs. Skipper MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina rebuilt, but couldn’t convert their starts as they fell for 50 and 31 respectively.
The Men in Blue looked dead and buried when they lost Dhoni (for 50) in the 36th over as the score read 184/6. In walked Ravindra Jadeja at No. 8 (demoted after a couple of poor outings with the bat in the first two ODIs).
He was India’s best bowler (taking 2/47 in 10 overs) and best fielder as well (taking a catch and effecting an important runout), so it’s fair enough to say he was having a good day. But it turned into one of the best days, especially with the bat.
When Jadeja came into bat India still required 131 runs in 92 balls and the fans at Eden Park would’ve thought the game was done and dusted with their talismanic finisher Dhoni and the chase master Kohli back in the hut.
But what followed was an excellent exhibition of counter-attacking cricket. Along with Ashwin, Jadeja a brilliant counter-attacking 85-run stand to take his team close. But after his partner was dismissed for 65, Jadeja took it upon himself to take the game to the end. Remember, India were battling to stay alive in the series.
Jadeja started farming the strike as he started playing wisely, attacking at the start of the over and then taking a single on the fourth or fifth delivery.
When the 9th wicket fell, 29 runs were still required off just 13 balls, which eventually came down to 18 off the final over as McClenaghan conceded 10 in the penultimate over.
It was still New Zealand’s game to lose as Corey Anderson had 18 runs in the bank and one wicket to take, but it was a thrilling finish as Jadeja decided to take matters right until the final ball. With the help of a couple of wides, two fours and a big six, Jadeja suddenly turned the game on its head with 2 runs to get off the final delivery. The pressure was on Anderson who had failed to execute his yorkers or slower ones in that over. But in the end, both Anderson and Jadeja managed to hold their nerve as Jadeja stole a single off the last ball to force a tie.
Jadeja finished with 66 off 45 balls hitting 5 fours and 4 sixes to help India escape with a thrilling tie. Out of nowhere, the visitors (India) were still alive in the series. And they had Ravindra Jadeja to thank. The innings was far from perfect as Blackcaps missed three run outs and also dropped him twice, but the way he calculated the run chase was brilliant.
Jadeja, who has three triple centuries in Ranji cricket, hadn’t fulfilled his capability with the bat at the international level.
He was often criticized for throwing his wicket away to poor shots. In what looked like a redemption of sorts, he played calmly, kept pinging the short straight boundary, and didn’t panic when he saw the asking rate climb when he refused singles.
He took calculated risks, playing out New Zealand’s best bowler Bennett and then launching an assault in the final two overs with only one wicket left - all this with a great sense of composure. Jadeja, the all-rounder seemed to have finally arrived as he started giving better consistency with the bat thereafter.