Shami, Spinners & Shikhar Help India Sail to 1-0 Series Lead vs NZ
A superb display by the bowlers, backed up by a welcome return to form for Shikhar Dhawan, powered India to a commanding victory in their ODI series opener in New Zealand at Napier on Wednesday, 23 January.
Mohammed Shami dented the Kiwi top-order with early strikes, before wrist-spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav ran through the middle- and lower-order to bundle the hosts out for a paltry 157 after Kane Williamson had opted to bat first.
A brief ‘sun strike’ during the Indian innings was the only hindrance in the run-chase, as Dhawan’s unbeaten 75 saw Virat Kohli’s side over the line with eight wickets in hand and 85 balls to spare.
Shami Fastest Indian to 100 ODI Wickets
371/7, 319/7 and 364/4. These were New Zealand’s scores in three ODIs they had played in 2019 coming into the series.
They might have come against a Sri Lankan side lesser-equipped than India, but Williamson and team would surely have been targetting another 300+ total when they chose to take first strike at a McLean Park wicket with no demons in it.
But they walked into an inspired Shami, delivering a probing opening burst which would see him become the fastest Indian bowler to the milestone of 100 ODI wickets.
Two LBW appeals were made off the first two balls bowled by the 28-year-old – the second of them nearly tempting India into a review after Martin Guptill had shouldered his arms to a good length delivery. Two balls later, Shami had Guptill chopping one onto his stumps for his 100th scalp in the 50-over game.
He followed it up by castling fellow opener Colin Munro in his next over.
Shami’s figures in the first half hour of play read 3-2-5-2; with Bhuvneshwar Kumar disciplined at the other end, the Kiwi scoreboard read only 34/2 after 10 overs.
Kuldeep, Chahal Continue to Mystify
One of the tougher decisions faced in recent times by Virat Kohli as an ODI captain, in particular given the absence of Hardik Pandya, is whether to go in with his two ‘wristies’ or not.
The lack of the ‘balance’ provided by Pandya has worked in favour of Ravindra Jadeja, who has been a regular fixture since the Asia Cup in September. But aided by Vijay Shankar’s presence as the seam-bowling all-rounder, Kohli chose to throw the twin-threat of Kuldeep and Chahal upon New Zealand in the series opener – he may find it difficult to go any other way for the remainder of the contest.
While Kuldeep finished with the more impressive figures, Chahal provided arguably the more telling strikes. Buoyed by the high of recording the best-ever figures by any bowler in ODIs in Australia less than a week ago, the leg-spinner dismissed the in-form Ross Taylor in his third over.
Two overs later, he had Tom Latham – mighty impressive against spin when the Kiwis visited India in 2017 – walking back to the hut in identical fashion, outfoxed and offering a return catch to the bowler.
Chahal’s chinaman-bowling partner has enjoyed his maiden appearance in almost every country he’s turned up in, and Kuldeep continued that trend at Napier. Wicketless in his first seven overs, the 24-year-old ran through the Kiwi lower-order with four strikes from his last 18 deliveries.
Having waged a lone battle, Williamson attempted to cut loose with his side at 146/6 after 33 overs. He fell off the first ball of Kuldeep’s eighth over, for an 81-ball 64; New Zealand’s innings had ended by the end of the 38th over.
Back Among Runs, Dhawan Crosses 5K
There were no outright concerns, but Dhawan had been undergoing his leanest patch in one day internationals over recent months.
With no pressure of runs on the scoreboard, the 33-year-old eased his way back into form with his 41st score of 50 or more in the format, in the process also becoming the second-fastest Indian – and the fifth-fastest overall – to 5000 ODI runs.
Skipper Kohli had seemed set to join Dhawan in crossing 50, but he fell five short when he nicked a rising delivery from Lockie Ferguson behind to Latham. That denied the Delhi duo their ninth 100+ stand in ODIs, with the partnership ending at 91.
Ambati Rayudu, reinstated into the XI at the expense of Dinesh Karthik after sitting out the final game in Australia, saw out the remainder of the chase alongside Dhawan to complete India’s first victory against the Kiwis on New Zealand soil in any format since March 2009.