Mohammed Shami, Shikhar Dhawan headline India’s eight-wicket win
Shikhar Dhawan's first ODI fifty since September took India home. © AFP

Wrist-spin accounted for six wickets as New Zealand folded for 157 in 38 overs on Wednesday at McLean Park, a total that India overhauled without fuss to claim the opening ODI by eight wickets and with 85 deliveries remaining, on the D/L method.

India’s chase was interrupted for half an hour on account of excessive sunlight – not uncommon in Napier, as it turns out – and resulted in an over and one run being reduced, but it had no impact on the situation. Dhawan measured his innings well to finish with 75 from 103 balls, his first ODI fifty since September, during which he became the second-fastest Indian batsman to 5,000 runs.

If India had to chase just 157, it was because of a stellar effort in the field, with the exception of two dropped catches, one of which allowed Kane Williamson to move from 20 to 64 – the only fifty of New Zealand’s innings. Mohammed Shami set the tone with an excellent new-ball spell, Yuzvendra Chahal made inroads and four wickets to Kuldeep Yadav in a four-over spell at the backend of New Zealand’s innings came as the hosts lost their last five wickets for 24 runs. New Zealand’s decision to drop their sole legspinner in Ish Sodhi looked a puzzling one after Chahal and Kuldeep took 6/82 in 20 overs.

After three ODIs in Australia, the roles were reversed between Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar during the Powerplay. Today it was Shami who dismissed the New Zealand openers, while Bhuvneshwar bowled an economical but wicketless spell. Shami hit terrific lines immediately and bowled Martin Guptill in a wicket-maiden opening over, in which he rapped the batsman on the pads with sharp movement and then found the inside edge when Guptill played forward uneasily. That made Shami the fastest Indian bowler to 100 wickets in ODIs.

Mohammed Shami crossed 100 ODI wickets on a three-wicket day.
Mohammed Shami crossed 100 ODI wickets on a three-wicket day. AFP

A second came in Shami’s second over, when he switched to around the stumps and had Colin Munro first ball with the change of angle. Shaping to drive, Munro was beaten completely by Shami’s delectable shape and heard the stumps rattle. Shami had figures of 4-2-13-2 from that spell.

Chahal’s wickets of Ross Taylor and the returning Tom Latham were the result of expert drift and dip, with both batsmen duped into popping back low return catches inside five overs.

On 20, Williamson was given a huge slice of luck when he worked a short ball from Vijay Shankar to short fine leg where Kedar Jadhav put down the catch. Williamson punched Chahal out of the attack with two sweetly-timed boundaries in succession, both shovelled over midwicket, to usher in Jadhav. Henry Nicholls thrashed a cut past point for four, Williamson ramped to the fine leg boundary and you sensed New Zealand had found a release point. Just like that, Nicholls whipped the ball towards mid-on where Kuldeep dived and held a stunner. New Zealand were five down in 24 overs.

Wristy business: Chahal and Kuldeep claimed 6/82 in 20 overs.
Wristy business: Chahal and Kuldeep claimed 6/82 in 20 overs. AFP

Shami came back and pinned Mitchell Santner – in his first ODI since March 2018 – plumb in front for 14, and then came the wicket India really needed. Williamson had eased to his fifty in good time, looking unhurried and batting with the attractiveness that Virat Kohli had spoken of highly a day before. On 64, he chose to loft Kuldeep and found long-on. It was a surprising shot, because until then Williamson had been solid, and New Zealand’s tail had been exposed.

Kuldeep ended his over by having Doug Bracewell bowled for 7 when dragging a wide ball onto his stumps, capping a tremendous double-wicket maiden. A drop by Dhawan at long-off gave Tim Southee a life on 0 but it did not cost India much. Kuldeep won an lbw shout to add Lockie Ferguson without scoring and then had Trent Boult edging to slip to finish with 4/39, all four wickets coming in a massive spell of 4-1-13-4.

India took dinner at 41/0 in nine overs, and when play resumed Rohit Sharma was out second ball, edging Bracewell to slip. Dhawan punched and flicked as he does when on song, and it was when missing one whip off the pads against Ferguson that he pointed to the sun. His view had been obstructed by the harsh glare of the setting run against the north stand of McLean Park, which forced the umpires to suspend play.

When everything settled, Dhawan moved to his half-century through a series of nudges and drives and with Kohli put on 91 before the captain was out for 45 when he nicked a swat down the leg side. Ambati Rayudu, back at No 4, edged his first ball between Latham and slip and ended on 13 from 23 balls.

Brief scores: India 156/2 in 34.5 overs (Dhawan 75*, Kohli 45) beat New Zealand 157 in 38 overs overs (Williamson 64, Kuldeep 4/39) by nine wickets (D/L method)