New Zealand 93 for 2 (Taylor 37*, Nicholls 30*, Bhuvneshwar 2-25) beat India 92 (Chahal 18*, Boult 5-21, de Grandhomme 3-26) by eight wickets
Swing. The ghost that is rarely seen in ODI cricket currently. When it was seen in Hamilton, it left India pale as it had in Dharamsala in December 2017. Just like in that game, India didn’t have a single Test regular in their top six. Unlike in that game, they didn’t even have MS Dhoni, who could have brought to the situation the experience of having batted in difficult conditions in Test cricket. In Dharamsala, India managed 112; here they were bowled out for 92, enough to consign them to their worst defeat in terms of number of balls remaining: 212.
There were also memories of how New Zealand played in the 2015 World Cup, back when the ball was still swinging. In a throwback, Trent Boult bowled out at the top of the innings, just as he had during those World Cup 2015 days, and took a five-for to rip the heart out of India’s batting. Boult bowled four maidens to boot. The last time so many maidens were bowled by a single bowler in the same ODI between two top-10 sides was in, well, the same Dharamsala game.
Even Colin de Grandhomme, no more than a part-timer in typical ODI conditions, became a threat once the ball began to move. A couple of big blows from Hardik Pandya, though, carried India past their lowest ODI total: 54 against Sri Lanka in 2000.
This was an ODI, just like in Dharamsala, where India badly needed some of Virat Kohli’s Test quality batting, but just like back then, Kohli couldn’t have predicted these conditions when his body told him he needed rest. For the others, their tuning to flat conditions in ODI cricket showed, which is not necessarily a sin because when the conditions don’t require caution, it can come in the way of their ambition.
There was talk of swing even before the match had started. It is such a mysterious thing that you can’t predict it, but local experience told New Zealand it was hot and humid, and that there should be some swing. Accordingly, they decided to bowl first. India, who didn’t have access to this local experience, would have batted anyway in their quest to challenge themselves to keep pushing themselves in the middle overs. Neither team would have imagined that swing would be used to this devastating effect.
Boult first dragged Shikhar Dhawan across his stumps to budget for the swing and then flipped the seam position to get it to move back past the inside edge and trap him lbw. Rohit Sharma, the captain in Kohli’s absence, played a little in front of his body, as Boult got the ball to dip in front of him and swing back in. At 23 for 2, India’s inexperienced middle order was in for a test. That included the exciting debutant, Shubhman Gill, whom Kohli famously called ten times as talented as he was at 19.
During his brief stay, Gill showed enough class in the way he moved and didn’t over-hit when looking to attack, but there was also a reminder for him of what a big step-up international cricket is. Not that Gill necessarily needs it; he will know how long it took the likes of Kohli and Rohit to find their game at the international level. Gill here got hit on the helmet by Boult, and then pushed at one without moving his feet, giving Boult another return catch.
Between those two return catches, Ambati Rayudu and Dinesh Karthik had perished to slightly soft shots. Rayudu was caught excellently overhead at short cover by Martin Guptill, but it was a shot hit in the air when the need of the hour was to grit it out in tough conditions. Karthik guided de Grandhomme to the wicketkeeper. Kedar Jadhav was then found to be a sitting duck to Boult’s swing, and India were at their second-worst score at six wickets down: 35.
Pandya then took his chances against Boult, lofting him over mid-on, hitting him straight of mid-off, and pulling over midwicket, all in the same over – Boult’s ninth. It took India past 50, and they were now assured that they wouldn’t grab that dubious record off the 2000 team. Boult, though, had his own back in his tenth. Pandya was so switched on to watching for the swing that he could only present his glove when Boult shifted the goalpost and bowled a bouncer.
With Boult out of the way and the movement settling down a little, Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav batted with application to add 25 for the ninth wicket. A dropped catch and a misfield before the eventual tenth wicket meant India just went past their lowest total against New Zealand.
With no Mohammed Shami in the attack, and with no pressure from the scoreboard, New Zealand expectedly dealt with the conditions better and chased the target down in an aggressive manner. Martin Guptill’s stay was short and sweet: 6, 4, 4, out. Henry Nicholls, promoted to open in the absence of Colin Munro, who was dropped after a string of failures, batted through the chase for 30 off 42. Ross Taylor, the in-form batmsan, provided the fireworks with 37 off 25 to finish the game even before the dinner break.