India flounders once more in rain-shortened Hamilton One-Day International
Even in change, some things remained the same, including the result.
First to the changes. Unlike in Napier, the surface for Wednesday’s (January 22) second One-Day International was neither quick nor did it afford anything beyond loopy bounce. The sun largely played second fiddle to the dark clouds, and there was a near two-hour interruption for rain, two-thirds of the way into the New Zealand innings. Consequently, the 50-over contest was reduced to 42 overs a side.
Now to the similarities. Mahendra Singh Dhoni won a second successive toss, Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor both made polished half-centuries, and Corey Anderson, rapidly becoming the poster boy of limited-overs cricket, pulverised India with another brutal demonstration of his extraordinary ball-striking skills. India’s openers once again dawdled and scratched around, leaving too much to do for the batsmen to follow.
Virat Kohli showcased his exceptional skills all over again, sending little shivers down New Zealand’s collective spine till such time that he was in the middle. Dhoni played another of his in-the-trenches counter-attacking innings and Suresh Raina flourished briefly. In the end, though, it was New Zealand who walked away with the honours, its 15-run win on the Duckworth-Lewis method giving them a commanding 2-0 lead in the five-match series and knocking India off the No. 1 spot in the ODI rankings that has now gone to Australia.
New Zealand amassed 101 in its last 52 deliveries, almost entirely on the back of Anderson’s 17-ball 44, an effort that scattered the crowd as the ball sailed into the grassy banks with unerring regularity, to finish on 271 for 7. Under the D-L method, India’s target was revised to 297 in 42 overs, requiring a collective effort instead of relying on one or two patches of brilliance.
That India managed to post 276 for 9 in 41.3 overs when play was called off after one final spell of precipitation was due mainly to the effervescence of Kohli, and the enterprise of Dhoni and Raina, who were united with 133 needed in just 74 deliveries. They both lashed out boldly, Dhoni in particular threatening to take it till the end before falling with 40 needed to Anderson, who received a taste of his own medicine as he disappeared for plenty.
India could have done with a lot more enterprise from Dhawan and Rohit, who seemed to forget that there is such a thing as rotation of the strike. Between the occasional boundary, there were long periods of ennui as the ball was struck firmly but straight at the fielders. New Zealand’s bowling didn’t hold great menace on the docile track, but Kyle Mills, coming in for Adam Milne, Mitchell McClenaghan and Tim Southee were all naggingly accurate, giving nothing away and asking for the batsmen to play smart, commonsense cricket. Neither Dhawan nor Rohit can honestly say they managed that.
Kohli, though, was another matter altogether. After Southee had accounted for first Dhawan and then Rohit – who survived a huge leg before shout, then was dropped, both on 4 – Kohli took just two deliveries to stamp his class, taking Southee from outside off and driving him wristily, crisply, wide of mid-on for the first of his seven fours. Each one of them was a gem; there were pulls, some creamy drives on the up dancing down the track, and there were two tremendous sixes, the whip-drive off Anderson the shot of the match in a contest replete with memorable strokes.
Ajinkya Rahane strove hard to keep Kohli company, paling only in comparison because his partner at the other end was batting like a dream, but even though they added 90 for the third wicket in 83 deliveries, all it did was merely push the required rate up. Kohli perished in the first over of the Batting Power Play, lashing Southee on the pull to mid-on, but India wasn't done yet even if the target appeared that little bit beyond it.
Raina, under some pressure with the well of runs having dried up, arrived in a blaze of boundaries, playing the pull shot with a composure not always associated with him. Raina took on the aggressor’s role in his 62-run stand off only 39 deliveries against Dhoni, who himself found the ropes as much through raw power as intelligent placement. Dropped on 39 with the finish line still some distance away, Dhoni fell trying to belt one too many, Williamson atoning for dropping Rohit with a smart catch at short third man.
New Zealand’s recent approach to limited-overs cricket has to be been to build gradually and unleash its power-hitters towards the back end of the innings. The blueprint involves Williamson and Taylor, at No. 3 and No. 4 respectively, to lay the foundation for the likes of Anderson, McCullum himself and Luke Ronchi to explode at the death. On Wednesday, the batsmen followed the game plan unerringly, unfazed by the stoppage at 170 for 2 after 33.2 overs that necessitated the match to be a reduced affair.
Jesse Ryder had given New Zealand a frenetic start, Martin Guptill dumped a forgettable start to open his shoulders in the first of three consecutive half-century stands, this alongside Williamson, Taylor himself struggled initially to come to terms with the slowness of the pitch before blossoming and Williamson batted like a dream, playing forcefully off the back foot, but the real star was Anderson, left-handed, built like an ox and possessing a wonderful blend of brute power and no little finesse.
Anderson took a shine to first Mohammed Shami, then turned his attention to R Ashwin and eventually laid into Ishant Sharma, sixes flowing off his bat with alarming regularity. Dhoni can be accused of being a little leaden-footed, both during the carnage and earlier on when Williamson and Taylor were innings-building, but there was only so much he could do given the placidity of the surface, the rapidity of the outfield and the lack of consistency of his bowling unit in which the spinners, Ashwin and Jadeja, could easily have done a little more.
Taylor and Anderson rattled along at a furious clip, adding 74 for the fourth wicket in just 28 deliveries. Anderson’s dismissal sparked a minor end-innings collapse that claimed Brendon McCullum first ball, and then the well set Taylor, but New Zealand had done enough damage by then to tide over that phase. Then again, who knows what might have been had Dhawan and Rohit batted with just a little more purpose.