Tom Latham and Ross Taylor added 201 runs for the fourth wicket    AFP
Tom Latham and Ross Taylor added 200 runs for the fourth wicket AFP

A batsman with most technical proficiency is made an opener. The lowest he is asked to bat is at No. 3 or No. 4, someone who can weather the storm if the opposition makes early inroads. Meanwhile, the middle-order batters have a reputation for strike-rotation. New Zealand, however, broke the norm by sending the belligerent Colin Munro to open the innings and the sound Tom Latham at No. 5. Come to think of it, they must have pondered upon the role-reversal. They were more pitfalls than security, but that rendered dividends for New Zealand in the first ODI against India at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai: they won by 6 wickets, thanks to the 200-run stand between Ross Taylor and Latham.

Attacking Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah, especially when they bowl with the new ball, can invite your downfall. Munro did fall in the Powerplay but only after scoring 28 off 35. The strike rate of 80 may not convince you, but the slowness of the track would make any explosive batsman struggle for runs. Munro, in fact, did well to lay the foundation.

Munro s partner, Martin Guptill, too rose to the occasion. His 32 off 48 added to India s misery, ripping apart their game plan of taking early wickets. However, the only easy wicket that India could grab was that of captain Kane Williamson: he somehow could not keep Kuldeep Yadav s wrist-spinner down, perhaps getting beaten by flight.

Despite the resilience, New Zealand were tottering at 80 for 3. They needed 201 runs off 195 balls when Latham joined Taylor.

The blend of Taylor s experience and Latham s calmness produced a frightening force against India. Without giving them a scare, the duo unknowingly piled on runs. There was no rushing through gears. There was no unnecessary aggression. It was a display of pure, traditional cricket. An amalgamation of singles and risk-free boundaries sucked away India s motivation to take a 1-0 lead. That being said, there were a few reverse-sweeps from Latham s bat towards the end of innings.

New Zealand’s home work of tackling Indian spinners was quite evident from their approach. Unlike Australians, they showed respect before finding their feet. Not once did they fancy down the track to sprinkle domination on spinners. In the process and deservedly, Latham reached his fourth ODI century, proving New Zealand’s new ploy right. Taylor, on the other hand, fell for 95 when New Zealand needed a mere run. In came Henry Nicholls and ended the proceedings with a heave on the leg-side, winning the match with 6 balls to spare.

This was India s consecutive loss at the venue the previous being the 214-run drubbing against South Africa in 2015.

Although Virat Kohli could not take India home in his 200th ODI, he made it special with his 31st hundred. In the quest, he surpassed Ricky Ponting s tally of hundreds. And it is needless to say that he is only behind Sachin Tendulkar in the list of most ODI tons.

Although Kohli’s innings came in a losing cause, it was one his finest hundreds of his illustrious career. At one point the Indian batsmen were stuttering to put bat on ball, and in came Kohli and eased his team’s nerves with a rather calm innings. Come to think of it, patience and composure were the themes of this match. Kohli showed magnificent tenacity in the first innings, and then Latham and Taylor led the resurgence with grit.

Trent Boult ended with figures of 4 for 35. The runs column, however, could have been better had Bhuvneshwar Kumar not blasted 26 off 15 in death overs. For that matter, his first 5 overs had conceded a mere 7 runs. It was for his first spell that affected India’s momentum.

Brief scores:

India 280 for 8 in 50 overs (Virat Kohli 121 ; Trent Boult 4 for 35) lost to New Zealand 285 for 4 in 49 overs (Ross Taylor 95, Tom Latham 103*; Hardik Pandya 1 for 46) by 6 wickets.

Player of the Match: Tom Latham

Full scorecard