Brave knocks from Kohli, Dhoni in the chase; clinical all-round show by New Zealand
Kane Williamson held on to the swirling ball under enormous pressure at backward point. Mahendra Singh Dhoni started his walk back. Bowler Corey Anderson and New Zealand celebrated. This was the decisive moment of the hard fought rain-affected second ODI at the Seddon Park here on Wednesday.
Forceful and focussed, New Zealand took the game by 15 runs under the Duckworth and Lewis Method to gain a 2-0 lead in the five-match ANZ ODI series. India has now lost the No. 1 ranking in ODIs. Australia has become the top side in this format.
The surface here was slower than the one at Napier but there was no let up in New Zealand’s intensity.
Despite coming close — the side pursued an initial target of 297 in 42 overs — India disappointed. The D/L target when rain ended the contest three balls early was 293. India had made 277 for nine.
The bowling was porous. And despite brave knocks from Virat Kohli (78) and Dhoni (56), the lack of a collective batting effort once again hurt India.
For the Kiwis, the explosive Anderson made the difference with his ferocious 17-ball 44.
Then he recovered from punishment to make an impact at the Death with left-arm pace.
Williamson’s composure, footwork and timing were evident in his vital 77 that held the innings. Man of the Match, he was. The Kiwis hunted as a pack.
They also backed each other and read the situations better. The batting had firepower and the bowling, discipline.
The in-form Kohli battled with sizzling drives on both sides of the wicket, flicks and pulls.
When he was picked up at long-on off Southee, it marked another influential dismissal in the contest. Dhoni and Suresh Raina, finally finding some form, rallied for India with a few bold strokes but then India kept losing wickets at crucial junctures.
The innings was rocked at the start when Tim Southee’s yorker rearranged Shikhar Dhawan’s stumps.
Dropped on four when Williamson grassed an offering at point off paceman Kyle Mills, Rohit Sharma was soon prised outside off by Southee. It was his 100th ODI wicket.
Ajinkya Rahane was shaping well before being fired out by a short-pitched delivery from Mitchell McClenaghan. In the game’s first half, New Zealand — 170 for two in 33.2 overs when the innings was interrupted by rain — put its foot on the accelerator when play resumed. Under the circumstances, Anderson’s astonishing innings that comprised five sixes proved the game-changer.
The strong Anderson brings menace to this Kiwi line-up with his awesome bat-speed. The Kiwi struck the ball with brutal power; bludgeoning the sphere with minimum fuss and maximum force.
Given his powerful wrists and the ability to propel the ball with short-arm jabs, Anderson creates width out of nowhere. And he can so easily smack length balls straight.
Williamson impressed with cultured stroke-play.
There is an ease and a flow about Williamson’s batsmanship that is hard to miss. He has the time to pick the gaps. His use of feet against the spinners underlined his natural ability.
And when the delivery was wee bit short, he quickly got on to his back-foot to force the ball through covers. Williamson’s late cut off Jadeja revealed his soft hands and exemplary back-foot play. Ross Taylor (57), manoeuvring the ball into the empty spaces one moment and piercing the field the next, played an excellent hand. Luke Ronchi provided the innings late flourish.
The Kiwi total of 271 for seven was increased to 297 because of D/L calculations.
In the Indian pace attack, Ishant Sharma is seriously short of confidence.
Ashwin’s inability to pick wickets in the middle overs must be troubling the Indian camp too.
It must be said here that Dhoni was just playing the routine with his field placements for Ashwin.
For instance, there was no mid-on and mid-off and India was content to give away singles to long and long-off, allowing the batsmen to milk the bowling.
Dhoni could have had more fielders in the ring — particularly at mid-on and mid-off — and dared the batsmen to go over the top. It’s a scenario where a spinner has a definite chance of striking. India now has a mountain to climb.