India easily won the first ODI against New Zealand when the Kiwis won the toss and chose to bat first. The new Zealanders committed the same mistake as did the Aussies earlier this year in trying to force the pace of scoring against the Indian bowling. As Kane Williamson admitted during the award ceremony after the match, they were targeting a score of 300 runs or above. They would have been much better off targeting a score of 27-280 runs and taking it from there.
For the Indian team, it was Mohammed Shami, who is trying to fortify his place in the final eleven of the Indian team in the World Cup, who bowled well making early inroads into the Newzealand batting. He was constantly targeting the stumps, keeping the seam upright, letting the ball do the talking and the batsmen commit the errors. He bowled on a length which was just ahead of a good length and not actually a half volley. As a result, Shami got Martin Guptill with one that seamed back, took the inside edge of the batsman’s bat and on to his stumps in his fifth ball of the morning. Four balls later he had Collin Munro bowled through the gap between his bat and his pads when the batsman was trying to drive through the off side.
Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor, the two best and in form batsmen, were at the crease and seemed to be going well with Taylor being the more attacking of the two. Yazuvendra Chahal, who had bowled two tight overs before mostly to Taylor, got rid of the impatient batsman when he came out to drive the ball and found himself short of the pitch of the ball. Chahal took a return catch off Taylor. A couple of overs later, Chahal was offered another return catch, this time by Tom Latham, and took it gleefully which left Newzealand at 76 runs at the loss of 4 wickets. Kane Williamson was batting well at this point; severe on anything that was pitched slightly short and placing balls that were pitched up for comfortable singles.
But Williamson, who was dropped by Kedar Jadhav when he was on 20 runs, was losing partners regularly at the other end. Jadhav himself got the next wicket for India when his bowling mate Kuldeep took a superb diving catch to dismiss Henry Nicholls. Mitchell Santner put on another short 26 runs partnership before he was LBW to Shami in the bowler's second spell. Kuldeep Yadav then bowled a ball that dipped and moved wider outside the off stump then Williamson expected the ball to. Already committed to the shot, Williamson mistimed and dragged the ball to long-on where Vijay Shankar took a comfortable catch.
Kuldeep Yadav proceeded to wipe out the Kiwi tail, first enticing Doug Brace well to play the ball on to his stumps. Next, he had Lockie Fergusson lured on the front foot by a googly which the batsman did not read, and had him stumped by MS Dhoni. Rohit Sharma took a catch off Trent Boult in the slips to have New Zealand all out for 157 runs. Kuldeep Yadav finished the inning with 4 wickets for 39 runs in ten overs while Shami had taken 3 wickets for 19 runs off the six overs that he bowled. India was set a target of 158 runs to score and win the match.
The Indians started well in the face of some good fast bowling, first from Trent Boult and Tim Southee, and then from Lockie Fergusson. They went into the break when the score was 41 runs for no loss off 9 overs. Rohit Sharma was out to the second ball after the break, caught by Martin Guptill off a Doug Bracewell delivery. Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan the continued the run chase if you could call it one in a subdued manner. By the time Kohli got out caught Tom Latham and bowled Doug Fergusson on his score on 45, India well within striking distance of the target. Dhawan, 75 not out and Ambati Rayadu reached the target without further ado and India finished the game in 34.5 overs giving India an eight-wicket win.
Coming on the back of the 2-1 victory in Australia, the Indians will be raring to go in the next match at Mount Maunganui on the 26th of January. This win gives Kohli and the Indian think tank opportunities to experiment with other players in the side. I wonder whether young Shubman Gill will be given a shot at the New Zealand bowlers. Although he has spent the best part of two months in New Zealand, he might find the quality of bowling that he faces at this level quite different. Given that KL Rahul and Hardik Pandya will be stuck in India for the best part of February, I think this is the best opportunity for India to expose would be candidates to conditions akin to those in England during the World Cup.