Chasing 293, India lost the first game of the five-match ODI series by 24 runs to New Zealand. A sparkling 123 by Virat Kohli went in vain as Mitchell McClenaghan-led attack bowled India out for 268 at the McLean Park in Napier. Besides the left-arm pacer’s four timely wickets, it was excellent fielding by Brendon McCullums’s men that helped the hosts to victory.
Earlier, inserted to bat first, Jesse Ryder revealed his dangerous streak by hitting Bhuvneshwar Kumar over square-leg for a six. However, before the opener could take the attack to the visitors, Mohammad Shami sent him back to the dressing room. 10 runs later, the pacer removed Martin Guptill to leave NZ on 32 for two.
Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor then did the hard yards and laid the foundation on which Corey Anderson built later to set India a competitive target.
Williamson and Taylor carefully stitched a 121-run partnership to help the Black Caps stay on course. Williamson had worked his way to 71 before hitting Ravindra Jadeja to Ajinkya Rahane at short cover. And three overs later, Shami struck again to claim Taylor. The batsman edged the ball and MS Dhoni behind the stumps pouched his 300th catch.
Corey Anderson then joined Brendon McCullum. With his captain at the other end, Anderson unleashed himself on the opposition. However, the partnership was halted after 42 runs with Brendon nicking Bhuvneshwar Kumar to the wicketkeeper.
Luke Ronchi then came to the crease and took over where his skipper had left off, while Anderson continued to pilfer runs off the visitors with gusto. In the 44th over, Anderson clobbered Shami to collect 19 runs off it. And Ronchi then swept and slammed Ravindra Jadeja for two sixes and a boundary to help add 20 more off the next.
However, the Indian pacers kept the Kiwi batsmen in check as they looked to fly past the 300-run mark. They conceded only 36 runs in the last five overs and picked two wickets to restrict NZ to 292. Ishant Sharma coming round the wicket accounted for Ronchi, while Shami took a superb catch in his follow through to account for Nathan McCullum. Not allowed to cut loose, Anderson struck the only six off the last five and remained unbeaten on 68. While Bhuvneshwar was the most economical of the Indian bowlers, Shami finished with a four-wicket haul.
Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan then came out to chase down the target. But after struggling to add three runs, Rohit was removed by Mitchell McClenaghan. Virat Kohli then got off the mark with a classic cover drive after replacing Rohit in the middle. The Dhawan-Kohli partnership was worth 58 when the opener perished while taking the aerial route.
And 11 runs later, a brilliant one-handed catch by Nathan McCullum flying to his right sent Ajinkya Rahane back. After contributing with the bat, Anderson had returned to make dents in the Indian line-up and left India on 84 for three.
With the run-rate creeping up, Kohli took on the NZ bowling. Halfway through the innings, the No.3 batsman launched Nathan over long-off for a six and reached his 50 later in the over. The pair was making progress when yet another brilliant piece of fielding saw Suresh Raina walk back to the pavilion. Tim Southee running in caught Raina’s pull shot off Adam Milne to leave India on 129 for four.
It was left to Kohli and the India captain to break the shackles and attain the target. The required run-rate had climbed to nine runs per over when India took the batting powerplay in the 35th over. The pair claimed 13 runs from the 35th over and 11 and seven off the next two. Brendon handed the ball to Southee as the Kohli-Dhoni partnership blossomed. The pacer created a chance off the first ball, but Ryder couldn’t collect the ball that went very high in the air and Kohli survived while on 95. Kohli scored his 18th ODI century with a cover drive later in the over.
51 runs came off the batting powerplay for India. But the hosts again put on the breaks in the next two overs, conceding only singles and in the 43rd over McClenaghan struck a double-blow to tip the balance in NZ’s favour. Dhoni nicked him to Ronchi and departed for 40, and Jadeja followed him back for a duck.
The contest inched towards a thrilling finish, but Kohli hit McClenaghan to Ryder to return with India still 56 runs short of the target. In the next over, Bhuvneshwar was run out for six. Facing an uphill task, Ashwin’s attempt at a fight back was ended soon. Williamson was brought into the attack after Milne hurt himself while bowling. Southee then wrapped up the India innings by castling Ishant Sharma, with eight balls to spare.Man of the Match: Corey Anderson for his 40-ball 68