Guwahati, November 28 (PTI) Virat Kohli's sparkling century helped India script a 40-run win against an injury-hit New Zealand to take a 1-0 lead in the five-match series.
Chasing India's challenging score of 277 at the Nehru Stadium here, New Zealand were short on experience with skipper Daniel Vettori and explosive opener Brendon McCullum missing out due to back injuries as the visitors were all out for 236 in 45.2 overs.
Stand-in skipper Ross Taylor top-scored for the Kiwis with a fighting 66 from 69 balls studded with three sixes and three boundaries.
At 169 for eight, New Zealand looked to give up easily but Nathan McCullum (35 from 35 balls, 4x4) and Kyle Mills (32 from 28 balls, 2x4, 2x6) produced a 67-run ninth wicket stand to give India some tough time in the middle.
But Sreesanth (three for 67) broke the partnership dismissing Nathan and Mills with te former being brilliantly caught by skipper Gambhir as India won the match with 28 balls to spare.
Under intense scrutiny, Yuvraj Singh failed with the bat but he was really effective with his bowling claiming three for 43 from his full quota of 10 overs, while off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin took a career-best three for 50 to help India take the series lead.
Thanks to a compact 105 by in-form Kohli, the new look Indian side under Gautam Gambhir put on 276 as they were bowled out in 49 overs after the hosts were sent in to bat.
Fresh from his back-to-back centuries in Ranji Trophy, the Delhi lad played a neat and chanceless knock from 104 balls with 10 boundaries for his second consecutive and fourth overall one-day century.
But Kohli's dismissal brought in a stunning Indian collapse as the lower-order managed 26 runs from last six overs something that exposed the new look side's inexperience at this level.
At 250/4 in the 44th over, with Kohli going great guns, a total in excess of 300 looked within easy reach but it was not the case after the centurion's dismissal by Andy McKay.
But New Zealand fought back with a planned and calculated bowling in the fag-end especially by left-arm seamer McKay who returned with a career-best figures of 10-1-62-4.
New ball bowlers Kyle Mills and Daryl Tuffey claimed three for 42 and two for 56 respectively.
With no McCullum, the New Zealand openers of Jamie How and Martin Guptill lacked the firepower as the visitors were slow and cautious to start with.
Stand-in skipper Taylor held the fort even as wickets kept falling in at the other end with Yuvraj doing a great job for India with his slow left-arm orthodox spin.
Taylor and Kane Williamson (19) looked good during their 67-run third wicket stand but Yuvraj did not let the partneship going.
Just when Taylor was beginning to look dangerous with his towering sixes, Ashwin gave the crucial breakthrough as New Zealand were reduced to 154 for seven after 33.3 overs.
Earlier Kiwi new ball bowlers, Mills and Tuffey, extracted some fine seam movements early on as openers Vijay (29 from 32 balls, 5x4) and Gambhir (38 from 38 balls, 6x4) survived some anxious moments in the early morning start.
The Indian duo however did not look under any pressure in absence of Virender Sehwag as they stitched 44 for the opening wicket before Vijay was done in by Tuffey with wicketkeeper Gareth Hopkins taking a brilliant catch running backwards.
Kohli settled soon his second-wicket partnership of 48 did not last long with Gambhir falling in a soft dismissal to McKay.
Due for a big knock, Yuvraj was slow and watchful to start that saw India scoring just 17 in the five overs in the bowling powerplay from 10-15 overs.
Having consumed 28 balls for his first eight runs, Yuvraj opened up to the New Zealand spin attack that missed Vettori sorely as Nathan McCullum and Kane Williamson bowled their conventional off-breaks.
Kohli, meanwhile, raced to his ninth half-century in a rather nondescript way but he ensured that they were on track for a big total.
In their 88-run stand for the third wicket, Kohli was compact and flexible in rotating the strike while Yuvraj looked to score in boundaries before he edged one behind the stumps.
A jaded Suresh Raina (13, 1x4) continued with his poor Test run into the ODIs, as the southpaw lasted 18 balls before becoming Mills' victim.
After Kohli's dismissal for 250 in the last ball of 44th over, the Indian inexperience showed as the lower order collapsed.
Yusuf Pathan played a cameo of 29 from 19 balls laced with three fours and one six, as debutant Wriddhiman Saha (4), Ravichandran Ashwin (0), Ashish Nehra (0) and Sreesanth (1) were dismissed cheaply.
But the total was enough to rattle New Zelanders who missed their regular skipper Vettori and opener McCullum badly to trail in the five-match series 0-1. PTI