Taylor, Latham script Kiwi victory

Taylor, Latham script Kiwi victory
The combined efforts of veteran Ross Taylor and the enterprising Tom Latham trumped Virat Kohli’s 31st one-day international hundred as New Zealand stunned favourites India by pulling off a six-wicket win to go 1-0 up in the three-match series on Sunday.

Reeling at 80 for three at one stage in hunt of India’s 280 for eight, built mainly on the strength of Kohli’s 121 (125b, 9x4, 2x6), New Zealand rallied in style through a match-winning partnership (200 off 187 balls) between Taylor (95, 100b, 8x4) and Latham (103 n.o., 102b, 8x4, 2x6) to post 284 for four in 49 overs here at the Wankhede Stadium.

With a near-capacity holiday crowd firmly behind them, India looked to maintain their cloak of “invincibility” as New Zealand’s chase seemingly lost its early steam and direction when they slipped to 80 for three from a relatively comfortable 62 for one. Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep Yadav and Hardik Pandya struck once each in that order to remove Martin Guptill, Colin Munro and skipper Kane Williamson. With their cream back in the hut, New Zealand needed something out of the ordinary to extract a win and Latham and Taylor delivered exactly that.

While Latham justified the Kiwi team management’s decision to use him in the middle-order with a high quality innings, Taylor summoned all his experience to play the situation to perfection. With the dew making bowlers’ job no easier, the tourists coasted to victory.

On a slow pitch, New Zealand appeared to have made a mistake by opting for five fast bowlers, including two pace-bowling all-rounders, when an extra spinner could have been more effective. Left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner was parsimonious (1/41) in his 10 overs while left-arm seamer Trent Boult (4/35) was impressive as ever but the other four bowlers went nearly seven runs an over while conceding 204 runs in 30 overs.

New Zealand made early inroads after being asked to bowl first as India lost both their openers – Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma -- by the sixth over. Boult dismissed both of them in a brilliant first spell of 5-1-7-2.

He had Dhawan caught behind after setting him up to play an away going delivery and then bowled Rohit through the gate as the right-hander played a reckless shot. After a brief repair job between Kohli and Kedar Jadhav, promoted to No 4, India lost the latter with Santner claiming his only victim.            

At 71 for three, India desperately needed a good stand and Dinesh Karthik (37 off 37), a surprise pick over Manish Pandey, provided that by raising 73 runs (82b) for the fourth wicket in the company of Kohli. MS Dhoni (25) further solidified the innings before Bhuvneshwar Kumar (26 off 15, 2x4, 2x6) provided the final flourish. But it was Kohli who held the Indian innings together as fortunes fluctuated. It wasn’t one of his fluent innings – he was dropped on 29 and notwithstanding some of his trademark flicks and drives, he laboured through his stint.

Admittedly, the conditions weren’t easy. If the hot and humid afternoon conditions was draining, the slow nature of the wicket and early loss of wickets kept Kohli in a muted note longer than he has become accustomed to. He batted almost the length of the Indian innings – he walked in after 3.1 overs and walked out after 49.2 overs – and must have thought he had just enough runs on the board for his bowlers to defend.

In bringing up his latest three-figure score, he became the second highest century-maker surpassing Australian great Ricky Ponting. Only Sachin Tendulkar is ahead of him now with 49. While Kohli’s 200th ODI went according to script till about three-fourths of the game, it went haywire towards the end.
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