Ravindra Jadeja almost did it for India. Well, almost!
The Saurashtra all-rounder nearly pulled off a sensational victory with some lusty hits but they were not enough to take India home in the last over, as the third one-dayer against New Zealand ended in a nail-biting tie in Auckland on Saturday.
The result kept the visitors afloat in the five-match series.
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. They rode on Ravichandran Ashwin's 65 and Jadeja's unbeaten 45-ball 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 got 17, which tied the scores.
The visitors needed just two runs off the last ball but Jadeja could manage just a single.
India can still draw the five-match series by winning the remaining two matches in Hamilton (Jan 28) and Wellington (Jan 31).
The tie also ensured India remained in the number one position in the ICC ODI rankings, having regained it on Friday following Australia's defeat to England in the fourth one-dayer.
Put in to bat for the third time in a row, on a good batting track at Eden Park, 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 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 started off fairly well, but Shikhar Dhawan (28) and Rohit Sharma (39) again squandered the good start and 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 Mahendra Singh Dhoni (50) and Suresh Raina (31) stitched 67 runs for the fifth wicket to keep India in the hunt after which Ashwin and Jadeja put on 85 runs for the seventh wicket to raise hopes of a stunning victory.
Corey Anderson was the pick of the Kiwi bowlers, with five for 63, though he appeared a trifle shaky in the tense last over.
During the Indian innings, Anderson tied down the two openers with a clever mix of deliveries and it resulted in a wicket.
Dhawan, who scored 28 runs (off 25 balls), was the first to go, pulling one straight to deep mid-wicket, where Guptill took a fine, low catch.
Only eight runs were scored before Rohit too was dismissed. The batsman, having scored 39 off 38 balls, with one four and four sixes, threw away his rousing start as he tried to play one over extra-cover only to edge it to third-man.
It put the focus again on Kohli, but the number three batsman had an off-day for once, looking edgy in his 20-ball stay at the wicket. He found it tough to handle Hamish Bennett and was caught behind in the 15th over.
Three overs later, Rahane too got a faint edge down the leg-side and Anderson picked his third wicket of the spell, checking India’s chase in the must-win encounter.
It brought Dhoni and Raina together, and the two put on 67 runs for the fifth wicket. Their runs came in good time, off only 60 balls, but the asking run-rate was already over seven-per-over when the 20th over of the Indian innings ended. As a result, the pair tried to break through the shackles to up the scoring ante and hit a couple sixes.
But Raina got a little circumspect as he tried uncharacteristic strokes and fell to a loose shot outside the off-stump, playing half-a-pull-shot. He scored 31 runs off 39 balls, with three fours. It was a case of an Indian batsman once again throwing away his start.
More importantly, he left his skipper, who batted solidly to score his 53rd ODI half-century, in the lurch. He scored exactly 50 runs, off 60 balls, hitting two fours and three sixes, and putting on 38 important runs for the sixth wicket.
It was a platform from which Ashwin and Jadeja exploded.
Image: Ravindra Jadeja of India bats during the third One-Day International against New Zealand at Eden Park in Auckland.
Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images