Virat Kohli (123) wages a lone battle for India
Virat Kohli was inspirational for India but the feisty New Zealand eventually found the right answers in the first ODI here on Sunday.
As the Kiwis, defending 292, emerged victorious by 24 runs in a tense duel at the McLean Park, the rankings went out of the window. India is No. 1 in the ODIs, and New Zealand, eighth.
When the game neared its business end, left-arm seamer Mitchell McClenaghan made the big moves. Varying his speed and length, McClenaghan forced the battling Dhoni (40) to edge a bouncer to wicketkeeper Luke Ronchi.
Soon he altered his length and direction to get the left-handed Ravindra Jadeja nick an away seamer. And when Kohli (123) was taken inside the ring off McClenaghan, the tightly knit Kiwis had nailed the contest.
For the Kiwis, Man-of-the-Match Corey Anderson blasted a 40-ball unbeaten 68 and then scalped two with his brisk left-arm medium pace.
Kohli’s 18th ODI century showcased his composure in duress. His mind calm during a demanding chase, Kohli struck the ball cleanly and without any pre-meditation. Kohli’s class was evident when debutant paceman Adam Milne fired one at 153kmph. The right-handed simply timed the ball past mid-on to the fence. Minimum fuss, rewarding returns.
His cover-drive off left-arm seamer McClenaghan was gorgeous. On a bouncy track, Kohli got into the right position for the pulls. He had the rub of the green, though, on 95 when Jesse Ryder dropped a skier off Tim Southee.
Kohli and Mahendra Singh Dhoni added 95 for the fifth wicket to revive Indian hopes. Dhoni punched, drove and bludgeoned Anderson over his head.
The Kiwis pulled the game back but there was a note of concern for the host. Milne, who consistently bowled in the range of 150kmph, walked back with a side strain. The Indians, who opted to pursue, lost wickets at regular intervals. The struggling Rohit Sharma succumbed to a hook off McClenaghan. Shikhar Dhawan promised much before miscuing a pull off Anderson. Ajinkya Rahane fell to a sensational diving catch at mid-off by Nathan McCullum against Anderson. Then, Suresh Raina was prised out on the pull by Milne.
Earlier, Anderson’s blitz powered the New Zealand innings. The southpaw’s bat-speed and strong wrists were evident as the Indian attack was pounded in the final stretch.
Anderson dismissed Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami to the stadium roof on the leg-side. Anderson and wicketkeeper-batsman Luke Ronchi whipped up 66 runs off only 37 deliveries for the sixth wicket.
Earlier, the smooth-stroking Kane Williamson (71) and Ross Taylor (55) steadied the innings after two early strikes with a 121-run third wicket association in 24.2 overs. Williamson picked his spots, carved boundaries on either side of the wicket.
When R. Ashwin went round the wicket to change the angle, Williamson jumped out to ease him over covers. This was a flowing shot. Taylor, who struck just one boundary in his 82-ball effort, cleverly rotated the strike. The Kiwi stroked more towards long-on and long-off than he normally does.
For India, Shami bowled zestfully, hitting the pitch and the bat hard. His run-up blending with action, the paceman displayed intent to scalp four. Shami struck at the beginning of the innings as the free-stroking Jesse Ryder played around a delivery that rearranged the stumps. Shami soon had Martin Guptill taken in the cordon.
He returned in the middle of the innings to combine with Dhoni as Ross Taylor (55) pursued one outside off.
When Dhoni held Taylor, he became only the fourth wicket-keeper in ODIs to combine in 300 dismissals with the bowler.
Dhoni, then, produced a high quality catch standing up as the fluent Brendon McCullum edged a cut off Bhuvneshwar Kumar. The restrictive Bhuvneshwar operated stump to stump.
Struggling for rhythm and often straying in line, Ishant Sharma disappointed. Under the conditions, Ashwin did a decent job.
New Zealand: M. Guptill c Ashwin b Shami 8 (23b, 1x4), J. Ryder b Shami 18 (16b, 3x4, 1x6), K. Williamson c Rahane b Jadeja 71 (88b, 7x4), R. Taylor c Dhoni b Shami 55 (82b, 1x4), B. McCullum c Dhoni b Bhuvneshwar 30 (25b, 4x4), C. Anderson (not out) 68 (40b, 3x4, 4x6), L. Ronchi c Bhuvneshwar b Ishant 30 (18b, 2x4, 2x6), N. McCullum c & b Shami 2 (5b), T. Southee (not out) 3 (3b); Extras (b-1, w-6): 7; Total (for seven wkts. in 50 overs): 292.
Fall of wickets: 1-22 (Ryder), 2-32 (Guptill), 3-153 (Williamson), 4-171 (Taylor), 5-213 (B. McCullum), 6-279 (Ronchi), 7-284 (N. McCullum).
India bowling: Bhuvneshwar Kumar 10-0-38-1, Mohammed Shami 9-0-55-4, Ishant Sharma 9-0-72-1, Ravindra Jadeja 9-0-61-1, Ravichandran Ashwin 10-0-52-0, Virat Kohli 3-0-13-0.
India: Rohit Sharma c Southee b McClenaghan 3 (23b), S. Dhawan c Taylor b Anderson 32 (46b, 3x4), V. Kohli c Ryder b McClenaghan 123 (111b, 11x4, 2x6), A. Rahane c N. McCullum b Anderson 7 (13b), S. Raina c Southee b Milne 18 (22b, 2x4), M.S. Dhoni c Ronchi b McClenaghan 40 (46b, 2x4, 2x6), R. Jadeja c Ronchi b McClenaghan 0 (3b), R. Ashwin c Southee b Williamson 12 (10b, 1x6), Bhuvneshwar Kumar run out 6 (4b, 1x4), Ishant Sharma b Southee 5 (10b), Mohammed Shami (not out) 7 (4b, 1x4); Extras (lb-3, w-12): 15; Total (in 48.4 overs): 268.
Fall of wickets: 1-15 (Rohit), 2-73 (Dhawan), 3-84 (Rahane), 4-129 (Raina), 5-224 (Dhoni), 6-224 (Jadeja), 7-237 (Kohli), 8-244 (Bhuvneshwar), 9-259 (Ashwin).
New Zealand bowling: Tim Southee 9.4-2-43-1, Mitchell McClenaghan 10-0-68-4, Adam Milne 7.3-0-40-1, Corey Anderson 10-0-51-2, Nathan McCullum 10-0-54-0, Kane Williamson 1.3-0-9-1.
Man-of-the-Match: Corey Anderson.