It was vice-captain Virat Kohli’s mesmerising unbeaten knock of 85 runs that cruised India to an easy six-wicket victory over New Zealand taking a 1-0 lead in the five-match ODI series.
After bowling out New Zealand for 190 in 43.5 overs, India reached the target in a mere 33.1 overs in a match that turned out to be thoroughly one-sided.
If debutant all-rounder Hardik Pandya (3/31) stole the limelight in the bowling department, it was another flawless effort from Chase Master Kohli, whose 85-run knock came off 81 balls. He struck nine fours before effortlessly lofting Ish Sodhi for his only six to finish the match in style.
It was rearguard action from New Zealand that saw them reach 190 after being down at 106 for 8. If not for Tom Latham, who remained unbeaten on 79 and Tim Southee (55), New Zealand would have never imagined to reach near the 200-run mark.
Southee played the role of an aggressor and together with Latham stitched quickfire 71 runs off just 58 balls for the ninth wicket to give New Zealand bowlers something to bowl at.
But India hardly had any problems in overwhelming the target with vice-captain Kohli again showing his supreme command in the 50-over format.
India got off to a brisk start in their pursuit for 191-run target with Rohit Sharma (14) and Ajinkya Rahane (33) adding 49 runs for the opening stand.
Rahane looked in ominous touch as he dealt in boundaries initially, hitting Doug Bracewell for two fours in the fourth over.
Rahane’s was a short but sweet knock which had class written all over it. Of his two sixes, one was hit straight down the ground while the other was well lofted over covers.
Rohit struck the first six for India, top-edging Southee over fine-leg. Rahane followed suit and pulled Bracewell for two hits over fence in the next over, the first one over fine leg and next over deep square leg.
But Bracewell put an end to the partnership when he removed Rohit, trapping the batsman in front of the wicket with a full length delivery.
Rohit’s departure brought Kohli at the middle and the vice-captain opened his score with a scorching drive to the cover boundary.
Rahane, who was going great guns, feel victim to a loose shot and poked a Jimmy Neesham delivery to Luke Ronchi and poked a Jimmy Neesham delivery to Luke Ronchi behind the wickets.
Kohli and Manish Pandey then added 40 runs for the 3rd wicket before the latter gave a simple catch to Kane Williamson inside the circle off leg-spinner Ish Sodhi Kohli carried on from where he left in the Test series and hit Bracewell straight down the ground before cover unleashing a lethal drive to the cover boundary as India reached 118 for three in 21 overs.
As indicated on the eve of the match, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni promoted himself to the No.5 position and together with Kohli shared 60 runs for the fourth wicket to take India closer to the target.
(With PTI inputs)