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India vs New Zealand, 1st ODI: New Zealand KILL India by 200 runs

A 200-run loss to New Zealand is perhaps never the best way to open your account in an international tournament, and the way all of the Indian star batters who can win you a match single-handedly stood rooted to the crease and kept on edging suggested they were not interested in prolonging the game into the night. Batsmen created hara-kiri and fell easy victims to beautiful seam bowling by Tuffey, Mills and Oram to be all out for a miserable 88.

Nothing went right for India, not even the toss

Nothing went right for India, not even the toss

Before the match, India was the second best one-day team in the world after Australia, yet this game at Dambulla also showed how serious teams are in preparation for the World Cup. New Zealand came into this tri series with a plan and lots of preparation for adaptation to sub-continent wickets and conditions. Fast bowling in Dambulla is not easy, and for cricketers of New Zealand it is even tougher.

Yet Tuffey kept on bowling in the corridor of uncertainty with precision tirelessly. The spongy bounce in the wicket and natural swing helped him conjure wicket-taking deliveries almost every time he went in to bowl, especially after the initial overs when he had settled into a nice rhythm. Mills, who started the downslide by claiming a mellowed Virender Sehwag just after he had hit a boundary, supported him very well. The wicket of Sehwag came in the seventh over and by the 30th over, Mills took the final Indian wicket of Ashish Nehra to wrap up the match.

Opener Karthik departed in the next delivery to that of Sehwag, given leg-before to Tuffey by Simon Taufel although Hawk-eye suggested the ball was missing the leg stump. Rohit Sharma presented a simple catch to slips to be the third man departing in the 10th over. Raina took the cue and followed two overs later. Dhoni tried to take a single but was run out for 2.

Yuvraj Singh, Praveen Kumar, Abhimanyu Mithun and Ravindra Jadeja then all edged to slips one after the other after regular intervals. Jadeja received the distinction of being the highest scorer in the team, having scored 20 in 60 deliveries.

The Indian suicidal procession was similar to the panic that used to set in the team in the era of the 90s. Such horrible capitulation was thus something that the Indian fan is not so used to, but such was the incision of the bowling attack and batsmen’s inability to deal with the swing and bounce that India was humiliated.

New Zealand had already gauged the conditions here in Dambulla much better than their Indian counterparts, going in for a seam-bowling heavy team and leaving out Jeetan Patel, the only spinner in the squad because of the absence of the regular skipper Daniel Vettori. Ross Taylor, the stand-in captain, confessed that it was tough to leave Jeetan out.

“It was a tough decision to leave out Jeetan Patel today. We are happy with the way we came back today. Nehra and Praveen bowled really well. We got a partnership going and thought it would be great to reach 250-260 and we reached 288,” he said, Taylor was also the man of the match for his brilliant knock of 95 that not only took his side out of trouble, but also help New Zealand put up a more-than-decent total of 288.

Once struggling at 28 for 3, Taylor along with Styris built a partnership lowly but steadily to first counter the Indian attack that was on fire at the time, and then gradually looked to score more as the innings wore on. Both the stalwarts had decided to not let confidence go to their heads: even when they had settled and had pretty much measured the Indian attack, they did not take too many risks. In the end, this sensible batting took them to a fighting total in bowler-friendly conditions.

MS Dhoni offered the excuse of ‘spongy bounce’ that bamboozled the batsmen. Indian capitulation at Barbados in the T20 World Cup not too long ago came to mind.

India’s batsmen are not only world class, they are able to thrive in subcontinental conditions. This was a shame by all means, since India still has not found a solution to bouncy conditions and short deliveries. And to think New Zealand did not even bowl too short.

The next game that India plays is against Sri Lanka, a familiar opponent, after 5 days. Having given up their ranking as well as the bonus point, they need to pull up their socks quickly. (Aren’t we using this sentence a bit too often for the Indian cricket team nowadays?) Is all well?

It better be.

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