India’s transition from the busy lane of T20 cricket to the calmer pastures of one-dayers didn’t get off to a promising start as Tom Latham and Kane Williamson combined to add 221 off 165 balls for the fourth wicket to help New Zealand win by seven wickets in the first of the three-match ODI series in Auckland, on Friday. Fifties from Shikhar Dhawan, Shubman Gill and Shreyas Iyer helped India score 306/7, thought to be a par total but Latham scored an unbeaten 145 off 104 balls and Williamson 94 off 98 balls to give New Zealand a 1-0 lead with 17 balls to spare. New Zealand, the No. 1 ODI side in the world, are now unbeaten for the last 13 ODIs at home. And India have now lost their last five ODIs against them.
New Zealand weren’t runaway winners by any stretch of the imagination. This was a slow, calculated assault on the target after Umran Malik, on debut alongside Arshdeep Singh, took the wickets of Devon Conway and Daryl Mitchell to reduce New Zealand to 88/3 in the 20th over. But Latham came in and straightaway got into the groove, scoring his fifty at almost a run a ball before accelerating towards the end, getting his hundred in just 76 balls and racing towards the target with the calm and selfless Williamson playing a steady hand at the other end. They needed 144 off the last 18 overs but New Zealand brought down the equation to 66 off 60 balls after Shardul Thakur was walloped by Latham for four boundaries and a six in a 25-run over.
“It was just one of those days when everything came off well,” said Latham after the win. “Built a partnership with Kane and had a bit of fun, just reacted to things and it paid off. It’s about being in strong positions and reacting to what they were bowling. Was able to find the gaps. The preparation has been ideal, it’s been nice and I was able to hit the ball right today.” India captain Dhawan took the loss on his chin. “We felt good about the total. First 10-15 overs the ball did a lot. It’s a bit different than other grounds. Today we bowled short of length and Latham attacked us there. That’s where he took the game away from us, especially in the 40th over. That’s where the momentum shifted,” said Dhawan.
Till that over by Thakur, who was bowling a bit too many short deliveries, India were rather decent despite being a five-bowler unit. Washington Sundar was getting turn and backed up his 16-ball 37-run cameo with a brilliant bowling economy of 4.2 but didn’t get enough support from Yuzvendra Chahal. Malik was quick and was getting movement early but the other fast bowlers weren’t disciplined enough. Arshdeep was particularly expensive, conceding 68 in 8.1 overs.
Eventually, it boiled down to how the batteries adapted to a pitch with spongy bounce. New Zealand took their time and accelerated in a staggered manner. Latham was the aggressor, using the sweep shot to good effect against Washington and Chahal while Williamson focused on threading the gaps, using the pace and farming the strike well when boundaries weren’t coming. India, still in a T20 hangover, looked confused in the middle overs when Iyer and Pant added just 10 runs between overs 27 and 31.
The start was subdued as well, considering Dhawan and Gill played 44 dot balls in the first 10 overs. But they compensated well, adding 124 runs in 23.1 overs, going after Matt Henry and using the pace of Lockie Ferguson to find boundaries. Both Dhawan and Gill reached their fifties in 63 balls but neither consolidated their starts into hundreds. Gill was the first to go, flicking Ferguson to deep square leg. In the next over, Dhawan couldn’t control his slice off Tim Southee, hitting it to Finn Allen at backward point for his 200th ODI wicket. Pant and Suryakumar Yadav were dismissed in the same over by Ferguson but Iyer and Sanju Samson resurrected the innings with a 94-run stand. Washington’s innings helped India add 96 in the last ten overs but it wasn’t good enough to prevent New Zealand from cantering to a comfortable win.