Team India’s ‘Road to 2023’ didn’t quite kick off as they would’ve liked as they suffered their first defeat in the tour of New Zealand, getting outplayed by Kane Williamson and Co in the first ODI in Auckland on Friday.
India had won the three-T20I series 1-0 earlier under Hardik Pandya’s captaincy, thanks to a washout in Wellington, a one-sided Indian victory in Mount Maunganui and a tie in a rain-affected game in Napier.
The team however, were served a reminder of the areas they still need to work on, especially in the bowling department as they failed to defend a 306-run target at the Eden Park in Auckland once the action shifted to the 50-over format.
And the Men in Blue, who will be hoping to end their ICC title drought on home soil next year, have a short turnaround before they face the Kiwis again with the second ODI in Hamilton taking place the day after on Sunday.
Looking back at the events that transpired on Friday, we bring to you five talking points from the first ODI:
Indian top three firing collectively
India’s top three has been a major cause for concern of late in white-ball cricket. So it came as a pleasant surprise when both openers Shikhar Dhawan and Shubman Gill and No 3 batter Shreyas Iyer scored half-centuries and laid the foundation for a sizeable total after the Indians were invited to bat by Black Caps captain Kane Williamson.
Dhawan (72) and Gill (50) got the Men in Blue off to a promising start with a 124-run opening stand and Iyer, who top-scored with a 76-ball 80, took over once the pair departed in quick succession, staying at the crease till the final over and ensuring India got past the 300-mark.
Rishabh Pant’s form still a concern
A score of 300 was used to be a winning total about two decades ago, but is considered very much achievable with the T20 format revolutionising the art of batting. And with the kind of start they got at the Eden Park, India would’ve fancied crossing the 350-mark in the end, but fell way short in the end as the middle-order couldn’t replicate the top-three’s efforts.
And among the middle-order batters who failed to get going on Friday was Rishabh Pant, who continues to be backed by the team leadership as their first-choice wicketkeeper-batter but somehow isn’t able to repay their faith with the bat. Pant was dismissed for a 23-ball 15, during which he collected two boundaries, extending a lean run that saw him struggle throughout the T20 World Cup as well as in the T20Is against New Zealand.
Umran Malik impresses with his pace
The Indian team think-tank, however, would’ve been pleased with the way tearaway quick Umran Malik conducted himself on Friday after the Jammu and Kashmir pacer got his first opportunity to represent the nation since the tour of England earlier this year.
Not only did Malik grab two wickets on ODI debut, giving India a semblance of hope by dismissing in-form opener Devon Conway and an equally dangerous Daryl Mitchell, he also hit express speeds during his spell with one of his deliveries touching the 153kmph mark. Safe to say we’re in for a pace battle this series between Malik and Lockie Ferguson should skipper Dhawan and stand-in head coach VVS Laxman persist with him in the attack.
Tom Latham’s assault on Shardul Thakur
He might not be part of the New Zealand T20 setup any longer given his style of play isn’t suited to the fast-paced nature of the shortest format, but Tom Latham gave a solid reminder as to why he remains an integral member of the ODI side with a career-best knock of 145 not out that came off just 104 balls.
The southpaw, who opens in the five-day format but bats in the middle-order in ODIs, smashed 19 fours and five maximums during his scintillating knock that came at a time when the Black Caps found themselves in a spot of bother. Latham played the aggressor’s role to perfection and it was his assault on Shardul Thakur in the 40th over — in which he smashed a six and four consecutive fours as the all-rounder went for 25 runs — that particularly stood out and signalled the shift in momentum towards the Kiwis.
Areas of concern for the Indian bowling unit
While the Indian bowling performance on Friday did show some promise especially in the manner in which Malik performed early during New Zealand’s chase, they failed to come up with answers once skipper Williamson and Latham got settled at the crease and began to rotate strike at will.
While left-arm seamer Arshdeep Singh has shown plenty of promise and has entrenched himself in both white-ball formats, his consistency remains an issue as he went wicketless for 68 runs at an economy in excess of 8. And neither spin option — Yuzvendra Chahal and Washington Sundar — could get the breakthrough in the middle overs although the latter did well to contain the run flow during his overs. And once Latham unleashed his fury on Thakur in the final over of the second powerplay, the game appeared well beyond Inda’s reach.
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