Virat Kohli scored a hundred under tough conditions as a dramatic turnaround saw New Zealand pulling off a thrilling 24-run win in the first one-day match against India to take a 1-0 lead in the five-match series.
Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni won the toss and elected to bowl first. Bhuvneshwar and Shami started the proceedings for India with Martin Guptill and Jesse Ryder taking strike. Just like his usual aggression, Ryder started using the short boundaries of the ground to good effect as he hit the first six of the game in the very first over of the day. He was looking increasingly dangerous when Shami got rid of the opener. Four overs later, Shami picked up the second wicket of his early spell of four overs, with Guptill (8) edging one to R Ashwin at first slip. The Kiwi run chase was then taken forward by the much-experienced RossTaylor and Kane Williamson as they put on a 100-plus stand for the third wicket during which they amply punished the two spinners, Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. In the 23rd over, Williamson brought up his seventh ODI half-century, off just 66 balls hitting five fours in the process while Taylor completed 4,000 ODI runs in 121 innings becoming just the second-quickest Kiwi batsman to do so.
Despite the rotation of bowlers, India struggled to check the runs and didn’t look like taking any wickets on a pitch that offered good bounce to the pacers but little help to the spinners. Taylor scored 55 runs off 82 balls and became the Indian skipper’s 300th ODI victim. The Kiwis were clearly looking to accelerate but faced a small hitch as McCullum was smartly caught by Dhoni in the 42nd over, standing up to Bhuvneshwar. But by the end of innings, they managed to put a pretty competitive target of 293 runs on board for India.
Set a formidable target, India was seeming on track for a successful run chase with Kohli (123 off 110 balls) leading the chase with his 18th ODI century before pacer Mitchell McClenaghan’s late three-wicket burst took the game out of India’s reach. From a comfortable 224 for five, the Indians were all out for 268 in 48.4 overs with McClenaghan being the wrecker-in-chief with a match haul of 4/68. Earlier, openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan had started cautiously as Southee bowled two maiden overs first up with the batsmen taking time to settle down. In fact, the first wicket fell even before the first boundary of the Indian innings with Rohit holding out one to Southee off a short ball from McClenaghan in the sixth over. Kohli came to the crease then and got off the mark with his signature cover drive. It was, however, an exciting affair as long as he was in the middle. He continued playing his shots with gay abandon and brute power as India was looking very much on the path to glory. At a stage, Kohli and Dhoni’s continuous tease and torment made Kiwi bowlers clueless. They added 95 delightful runs and at 224 for four in the 43rd over, the 292-run target looked within reach.
But Dhoni’s attempt to stay abreast with Kohli’s strokeplay saw him glove a bouncer. It brought the chase to an abrupt end apparently for India with Ravindra Jadeja lasting only three deliveries for a sum total of zero, and a disappointing match overall, to ring the alarm bells. Kohli’s exit (123 runs: 111b, 11×4, 2×6), after an eventless over in between, brought the curtains down. In the entire innings, Kohli found no support from other batsmen, none of who managed to reach even the 50-run mark.
But still after losing the first one dayer, the only ray of hope and positive that can be taken from the match is Kohli’s stunning form in the very first one and looking to shine more in the coming duels.