Bangalore: India survived some anxious moments following a middle-order slump to beat a brave New Zealand by five wickets and complete a 2-0 sweep in the cricket Test series at the Mangalam Chinnaswamy Stadium here Monday.
Chasing a target of 261 after dismissing the Black Caps for 248 in their second innings earlier in the day, the Indians were tottering at 166 for five before skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (48 not out) and Virat Kohli (51 not out) carried India to victory with a 96-run partnership off 121 balls for the unfinished sixth wicket.
Kohli, who had scored 103 in the first innings, was adjudged Man of the Match while off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin who had a haul of 18 wickets, including 12 in the first Test at Hyderabad, was declared Man of the Series.
The Kiwis, who had lost the first Test by an innings and 115 runs, had their chances and, with a bit of luck, could have pulled it off, but their bowling was not sharp enough to carry the day that was interrupted by drizzle an hour after lunch leading to a 57-minute stoppage.
Off-spinner Jeetan Patel sent shivers down the Indian spine with a three-wicket haul, but never quite looked a match-winner, while seamers Tim Southee (1 for 68) and Trent Boult (1 for 68) were too costly while failing to maintain a consistent line and length.
India were quick off the blocks with openers Virender Sehwag (38) and Gautam Gambhir (34) involved in a hectic partnership that pushed the Kiwis on the defensive as the pair put on 77 runs in just 71 balls.
Runs flowed like a river in spate as the Kiwi bowlers erred in line and length to be mercilessly punished. However, the run feast was too good to last and the exit of Sehwag in the 12th over changed the complexion of the game quite dramatically.
Sehwag, after smashing Patel for a six and a boundary, charged the bowler, missed the line and was bowled and soon Gambhir followed when he nicked Boult to Taylor in the slips, just before lunch that the Indians took at 88 for two.
On resumption, Sachin Tendulkar (27) and Cheteshwar Pujara (48) gradually got into their strides though neither was able to dominate the bowling that swung from ordinary to threatening.
However, just as the pair was looking to carry on came the 57-minute stoppage due to drizzle. When the game re-started, the Kiwis struck some telling blows to put India on the backfoot after Tendulkar and Pujara had added 69 runs for the third wicket.
Tendulkar, back in international cricket after a longish summer break, sparkled briefly before playing across to Southee and was bowled middle stump. It completed a dismal series for him with scores of 19, 17 and 27, and similar dismissals.
Pujara, who played an eye-catching knock, followed soon, caught bat-pad off Patel by a diving Daniel Flynn who had to move back from short leg to get to the catch. The off-spinner picked up another wicket when Suresh Raina (0), rushing out, played inside the line to be bowled, and India were 166 for five.
It brought together Dhoni, one of best finishers in the game, and Kohli who was batting quite beautifully and the pair began the repair work of an innings that seemed to be in shambles.
Dhoni, never to miss an opportunity for the big shots, dominated the partnership while Kohli, the first innings centurion, was content to play second fiddle, but marking his presence with some delightful shots, especially through the off-side.
The 50 of the partnership came up in 82 balls just after the drinks break during which the Kiwis had a huddle with skipper Taylor exhorting his troops for one final push.
However, Dhoni and Kohli batted quite sensibly with nudges and pushes into the gaps besides an occasional boundary hit to take India home. In the process, Kohli completed another half-century that underlined his status as the latest Indian batting sensation.
Dhoni then lent the finishing touches to the chase with a boundary and a massive six over mid-wicket off Patel to ensure a thrilling win.
Earlier in the day, India took just 17 minutes to wrap up the Kiwi second innings that resumed at 232 for 9 as Jeetan Patel was declared caught behind off Zaheer Khan when replays suggested there was no contact between bat and ball.
Thus, the stage was set for a gripping finale with India needing to score 261 in a maximum of 83 overs and a full day’s play at their disposal.