Virat Kohli held centrestage with a delightful unbeaten 85 after a collective bowling effort as India cruised to an easy six-wicket victory over New Zealand taking a 1-0 lead in the five-match ODI series, here on Sunday.
After bowling out New Zealand for 190 in 43.5 overs, India reached the target in a mere 33.1 overs in a match that turned out to be thoroughly one-sided.
If debutant all-rounder Hardik Pandya (3/31) stole the limelight in the bowling department, it was another flawless effort from ‘Chase Master’ Kohli, whose 85-run knock came off 81 balls. He struck nine fours before effortlessly lofting Ish Sodhi for his only six to finish the match in style.
It was rearguard action from New Zealand that saw them reach 190 after being down at 106 for 8.
If not for Tom Latham, who remained unbeaten on 79 and Tim Southee (55), New Zealand would have never imagined to reach near the 200-run mark.
Southee played the role of an aggressor and together with Latham stitched quickfire 71 runs off just 58 balls for the ninth wicket to give New Zealand bowlers something to bowl at.
Latham and Doug Bracewell attempted a fightback with a partnership of 41 runs before the latter attempted a big hit off Mishra only to find Ajinkya Rahane at midwicket. But India hardly had any problems in overwhelming the target with vice-captain Kohli again showing his supreme command in the 50-over format.
India got off to a brisk start in their pursuit for 191-run target with Rohit Sharma (14) and Ajinkya Rahane (33) adding 49 runs for the opening stand.
Rahane looked in ominous touch as he dealt in boundaries initially, hitting Doug Bracewell for two fours in the fourth over.
Rahane’s was a short but sweet knock which had class written all over it. Of his two sixes, one was hit straight down the ground while the other was well lofted over covers.
Rohit struck the first six for India, top-edging Southee over fine-leg. Rahane followed suit and pulled Bracewell for two hits over fence in the next over the first one over fine leg and next over deep square leg.
But Bracewell put an end to the partnership when he removed Rohit, trapping the batsman in front of the wicket with a full length delivery.
Rohit’s departure brought Kohli at the middle and the vice-captain opened his score with a scorching drive to the cover boundary.
Rahane, who was going great guns, feel victim to a loose shot and poked a Jimmy Neesham delivery to Luke Ronchi and poked a Jimmy Neesham delivery to Luke Ronchi behind the wickets.
Kohli and Manish Pandey then added 40 runs for the 3rd wicket before the latter gave a simple catch to Kane Williamson inside the circle off leg-spinner Ish Sodhi
Kohli carried on from where he left in the Test series and hit Bracewell straight down the ground before cover unleashing a lethal drive to the cover boundary as India reached 118 for three in 21 overs.
As indicated on the eve of the match, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni promoted himself to the No.5 position and together with Kohli shared 60 runs for the fourth wicket to take India closer to the target.
The only blemish in Kohli’s near flawless innings was a dropped chance by Southee off his own bowling in the 28th over, that too after smacking the pacer for boundaries of consecutive balls.
Dhoni made 21 off 24 balls with a boundary and a six before a complete breakdown in communication with Kohli led to his run out.
But by then the job was almost done and Kohli in Kedar Jadhav’s (10 not out) company brought up the winning runs to pile misery on the Kiwis, who are yet to taste a victory in the tour.
Earlier, Pandya (3/31), who was handed over his ODI cap by legendary Kapil Dev, opened the attack along side comeback man Umesh Yadav (2/31) as the duo wreaked havoc in the initial overs to rattle the Black Caps innings.
Besides Pandya and Yadav, leg-spinner Amit Mishra too shone with the ball with figures of 3 for 49.
Opting to bat after winning the toss, India witnessed a dream start as they reduced New Zealand to 43 for four in 10.4 overs.
Debutant Pandya gave India the first breakthrough in the final ball of the second over when he removed out-of-form Martin Guptill (12).
Struggling for runs throughout the tour, Guptill hit Pandya for three boundaries in the same over before the right-arm medium pacer took his revenge, inducing an outside edge as the batsman jabbed at a length delivery and Rohit Sharma did the honours at the second slip.
Much was expected from New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson (3) but he too perished soon, slashing a wide delivery from Umesh straight to Mishra at third man boundary in the 7th over.
It was a gem of a delivery from Umesh, which pitched on good length outside off and moved slightly to get an outside edge and Dhoni did the rest behind the stumps.
They caused quite a few problems for the Indian bowlers, finding the boundaries and the sixes at regular intervals. However, Southee was undone while trying to go for another big shot off Mishra over long on and was beaten by the turn.
Mishra then trapped Inderbir Singh Sodhi leg before soon after to bring the New Zealand innings to an end. Returning to action after change of ends, Pandya dismissed Corey Anderson (4), but the credit for the wicket should go to Umesh, who pulled off a superb catch at mid-off.
An over later, Pandya picked up his third wicket of the day in the form of Luke Ronchi, who flicked one straight to Umesh at mid-on as New Zealand slumped to 49 for five at the end of the 13th over.
While his colleagues looked completely out of sorts, opener Latham resembled a picture of patience and compact batting. The left-hander was hardly troubled by the Indian bowlers as he held one end together looking for support from the other side.
Dhoni then gave the ball to part-time off-spinner Jadhav (2/6) and he did not disappoint his skipper, accounting for two Kiwi batsmen Jimmy Neesham (10) and Mitchell Santner in his opening over.
Jadhav first dismissed Neesham with a simplest of return catch off his bowling and then he sent packing Santner with his next delivery as the batsman got faint tickle to Dhoni behind the stumps.
While wickets kept on tumbling from the other end, Latham went about his business with a cool head and in the process brought up a quality half century off 77 balls with the help of five hits to the fence.
With New Zealand struggling at 65 for seven, Latham and Bracewell (15) shared 41-run partnership for the eighth wicket to keep New Zealand alive.Leg-spinner Mishra cut short the partnership when Bracewell lobbed a delivery on the middle and leg straight to Rahane at short midwicket.
Then came in Southee, who grabbed with both hands the reprieve he got in the 35th over when Umesh dropped a sitter at fine-leg, and took the attack to the opposition to take New Zealand to a respectable score in the company of Latham.While Latham played the second fiddle in the partnership, Southee used his long handle to great effect and did not spare a single Indian bowler.
He displayed an array of shots which included cut, pull and lofted hits over the boundary to race to 55 of just 45 deliveries before he was holed out by Manish Pandey off Mishra as the batsman went for another heave.
Mishra then polished of NZ innings in 43.5 overs, trapping Ish Sodhi plumb in front of the stumps.