New series, new opposition, but a change of fortunes, an emphatic YES! This is how, the first India v New Zealand ODI at Wankhede Stadium on Sunday (22nd October, 2017), can be described in one sentence. The Men from Down Under planned, and more importantly executed it with both bat and ball brilliantly, upsetting the in-form hosts by 6 wickets in front of a near full-house.
Virat Kohli won the toss in his 200th ODI appearance and opted to bat on a pitch that was expected to slow down in the later half of the game. Local boy, Rohit Sharma (20) and Shikhar Dhawan (9) looked steady. However Trent Boult weaved his magic by sending both the openers back to the pavilion, discomforting them with extra bounce. Kedar Jadhav (12), promoted to the No 4 spot, had a short stay at the crease, falling prey to left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner. Recalled middle-order batsman, Dinesh Karthik and skipper Kohli got the innings back on track and stitched together a fluent 73-run stand. However, Karthik (37) got out at the wrong time, in the 29th over to Tim Southee.
Kohli, though, was unfazed though by the loss of wickets, making the Kiwi bowlers toil hard on a balmy afternoon in Mumbai. His 58-run partnership with MS Dhoni (25) gave the innings momentum, as the Men-in-Blue added 83 runs in the final 10 overs. Kohli's (121) love affair with the Wankhede continued (double hundred in his last Test appearance against England and an unbeaten 90 odd against West Indies in ICC WT20 semi-final), as he brought up his 31st ODI hundred, to overtake Ricky Ponting's tally of 30 ODI hundreds. Only Sachin Tendulkar has more ODI hundreds (49) than Kohli. India's final total of 280/8 seemed enough on a turning track as Bhuvneshwar Kumar smashed a quick-fire 26 off 15 balls.
Trent Boult (4/35) was the pick of the bowlers for the Kiwis.
In response to India's score, Martin Guptill and Colin Munro came out with all guns blazing. However, Jasprit Bumrah applied brakes at the right time, getting rid of Munro (28). Kuldeep Yadav sent back big fish Kane Williamson (6). The Kiwis started to feel the heat and to add more venom to it Karthik picked up an excellent running catch to send a well set Martin Guptill (32) back to the hut, handing Hardik Pandya his first wicket. At 80/3, it seemed like Team India had the game in the bag.
However Ross Taylor and Tom Latham had some other plans. Bringing out the sweep shot to perfection, the two batsmen upset the Indian spinners plans as they kept up with the required run-rate with brilliant running between the wicket, aided by the occasional boundary. Batting in the middle-order after keeping wickets for 50 overs in the afternoon heat, Latham seemed at ease, going on to nullify the control exerted by the likes of Kuldeep, Pandya and Yuzvendra Chahal during the ODIs against Australia. The 200-run stand between Latham and Taylor, meant that New Zealand eased to a 6-wicket win with one over to spare. While the left-handed Latham, hit his fourth ODI ton and remained unbeaten on 103, old-pro Taylor (95) missed out on a well-deserved 18th ODI hundred.
The Men-in-Blue cannot afford another slip-up in the short three-match series. A loss for Kohli's men in the 2nd ODI at Pune on Wednesday (25th October, 2017) will mean that New Zealand will win their first bilateral series in India after five unsuccessful attempts. However, with history in Team India's favour, expect the Men-in-Blue to give it their all in what is effective a do-or-die game match on Wednesday.