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Match Point: New Zealand Upset India

Mahendra Singh Dhoni
The dismissal of MS Dhoni was a key moment in Napier
©REUTERS / Action Images

A stunning victory for New Zealand in the first One-Day International against India at Napier on Sunday came after a triple-strike late in the game when Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja and centurion Virat Kohli got out in quick succession.

Until then the match had hung in balance as the world’s number-one-ranked ODI side were sprung up by Kohli’s 18th ODI hundred, in pursuit of a target of 293. India fell short by 24 runs in the end, all out for 268 (in 48.4 overs) after the Black Caps had scored 292 for seven.

Contest of the Day

Against a determined bowling attack, it was one man on a mission as he always is whenever India are chasing. Kohli brought up his 12th hundred in a run chase, and only his first in a losing cause whilst doing so. On 11 previous occasions, he has always ended up on the winning side, sometimes in maddening situations where the men in blue were chasing 300-plus more often than not.

Perhaps he is the saviour of the Indian bowling line-up that is prone to regular disastrous days in the field, irrespective of conditions. It has become an acquired taste for him, given that in the 126 ODIs Kohli has played, he has been chasing in 75 of them. In 69 innings therein, he averages a staggering 63.88, with another 18 fifties to boot. That gives him a 40 per cent conversion rate of starts to fifties to triple figures. It is an insane ability to absorb pressure.

There is a method to this madness though, highlighted amply with the way he got into his stride at McLean Park on Sunday. He hit the first boundary in the Indian innings, a trademark cover drive, after Rohit Sharma couldn’t get his scoring going.

Thereafter in the 58-run second-wicket partnership with Shikhar Dhawan, it was amply clear that the latter was struggling with his timing. Kohli didn’t let the run-rate get bogged down and marched on.

It was the 95-run partnership for the fifth wicket with Dhoni that put India back in the match. After the fall of Ajinkya Rahane and Suresh Raina, the two batsmen settled down to rotating the strike and taking India as close to the final target as possible, before launching off in the final overs.

In that period of 14.1 overs, Kohli hit only five fours and didn’t attempt to play a lofted shot. It was down to Dhoni who hit two sixes to up the ante, as his partner looked to see the innings through.

Kohli was the lone ranger among ruins, making sure that he stayed on till the end even as the Black Caps picked wickets regularly. He always wants to be the batsmen around which the entire batting line-up rotates, and that desire is what it takes to mount successful run chases.

He is making quite a habit of it. Sunday was an aberration, a day when he enjoyed no support, especially when you see that the next best score after his 123-runs was only 40.

Player of the Day

There is a certain buzz about Corey Anderson in the Indian cricket circles, and rightly so because not many cricketers can upstage Kohli on such days. It isn’t alone because of his record-breaking ODI hundred against the West Indies, but also because the IPL auctions are just around the corner.

Prior to this, owing to odd timings, not many fans in India had seen his prowess and tuning-in during the wee hours of Sunday, they got their fill.

When he walked in to bat, Anderson had been given a brilliant platform from which to launch into the Indian bowling, and he didn’t disappoint. Two mighty sixes, one each off Ishant Sharma and Mohammad Shami landed on the roof of the square-leg stands.

He hit another two sixes, one off Ravichandran Ashwin to show that he is not bothered by spin either, and again off Ishant to dismiss India’s most experienced bowler out of hand. On this mighty batting prowess alone, he will win a handsome IPL contract.

Then, there is his bowling ability to boot as well. He was able to squeeze Dhawan off a short ball that resulted in his dismissal, and Rahane was out to a great catch by Nathan McCullum.

More importantly though, New Zealand’s bowling could have fallen apart once Adam Milne walked off, and to have players like Anderson so that you don’t have to worry about completing your 50-overs in a tight chase is a luxury that Dhoni will kill for.

Match Point

India were able to chase tall scores at home because an in-form top order wreaked havoc on opposition line-ups. As such the frailties of the middle order went unnoticed. Now, overseas, the openers are trying to figure out problems of their own and as such only two batsmen – Kohli and Dhoni – have scored any runs for India in four ODIs in South Africa and New Zealand so far.

The game turned when the two got out, but India actually lost with the fall of Rahane and Raina. A bothersome opening combination and a weak middle order doesn’t bode well for the visitors going ahead, asking for some serious re-thinking.

© Cricket World 2014