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Gambhir century clinches series win for India

VADODARA, India, Dec 4 (AFP) - Gautam Gambhir hit a second successive century as India crushed New Zealand by nine wickets in the third one-day international on Saturday to take an unassailable 3-0 lead in the series.

The stand-in skipper hammered 16 fours in his unbeaten 126 off 117 balls to help his side overhaul New Zealand's 224-9 with 10.3 overs to spare in the one-sided encounter at the Reliance Stadium.

Gambhir, leading the side in place of rested regular captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, had also starred in India's eight-wicket win in the second one-day international in Jaipur, making an unbeaten 138 off 116 balls.

The fourth game of the five-match series will be played in Bangalore on Tuesday.

Gambhir carried his form in to the third game in Vadodara, adding 115 runs for the opening wicket with Murali Vijay (30) and another 114 for the next with Virat Kohli (63 not out).

Kohli also continued to torment the rival bowlers with a breezy 70-ball knock containing six fours and two sixes, as New Zealand slumped to their eighth one-day defeat in a row.

"We knew 224 was never going to be enough," New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori said.

"It was really tough early on. The track got better, and India played exceptionally well, with Gambhir leading the way.

"We have to keep fighting. Our top order needs to stand up, and hopefully that will happen in the next couple of games."

Gambhir's stroke-filled innings overshadowed a career-best 72 not out by James Franklin who helped the visitors recover from a shaky 106-7 after they were sent in to bat.

Franklin hit five fours and a six in his 108-ball innings and shared 94 runs for the eighth wicket with Nathan McCullum (43) to lend respectability to New Zealand's total.

Left-arm paceman Zaheer Khan (2-31) had given India a flying start by striking twice inside the first 11 overs before spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Yusuf Pathan claimed two wickets each.

Zaheer, playing his first game of the series, dismissed Brendon McCullum off the second ball of the innings when the opener edged tamely to Vijay at second slip.

"It was an important game because we did not want to give New Zealand any scope for a comeback in this series," said Gambhir, named man of the match.

"Zaheer is a quality bowler and he got Brendon McCullum in the first over, and that set up the game for us."

The in-form Martin Guptill (12) was run out following a direct hit from Gambhir before Zaheer returned to have Ross Taylor caught behind the stumps.

Yuvraj Singh snapped up a sharp, low catch to dismiss Scott Styris (22) while Pathan claimed the wickets of Vettori and Gareth Hopkins in successive overs.

Franklin, who came in to bat with New Zealand struggling at 49-4, worked with Nathan McCullum to add 68 valuable runs in the last 10 overs.

 

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