The Indian Cricket Team couldn't have asked for a better start to 2019. After registering a historic win in the Test series against Australia, the Men in Blue also walked away with the honours in the recently concluded ODI series Down Under. As the team barges ahead in its quest to glory in the SENA countries, a new challenge awaits them at the next frontier.
India are all set to lock horns with New Zealand in what is expected to be a fiercely competitive series. Touted to be among the favourites for the upcoming World Cup, the two teams have been in scintillating form of late. While India, in their latest ODI outing, humbled the Aussies in their own backyard, New Zealand battered Sri Lanka in a bilateral series earlier this month.
Also, given the pedigree of the players who'd be taking the field, the ODI series between India and New Zealand, kicking off on 23 January, is riding on high stakes and the fans certainly seem to be in for mouthwatering stuff.
While all was not hunky-dory for Team India when they took on New Zealand during their previous tour in 2014, a few players stood out with their exceptional performances.
Virat Kohli- 1st ODI, Napier (19 January 2014)
The first ODI of the bilateral series got rolling amid much hype and frenzy. Powered by a dynamic battery, India entered the fray as strong contenders. Winning the toss, MS Dhoni chose to bowl first on a wicket that was expected to assist initial seam movement. The decision seemed to have paid dividends right away when Mohammed Shami sent the openers packing cheaply.
However, things then turned demanding for the Indians as Ross Taylor joined hands with Kane Williamson to stitch a match-defining partnership of 121 runs. The duo was later backed by a sparkling knock by Corey Anderson as the blackcaps zoomed to a score of 292 runs on the board.
Chasing a daunting target, India were handed major blows after the openers, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, couldn't amount to much. While star batsman Virat Kohli dug deep at one end, the Kiwis kept chipping away with timely wickets at the other.
The fiery batsman looked in sublime touch as he kept pegging away towards the target. Kohli battered the Kiwis to all parts of the ground as he went to make a memorable 123 off 111 balls.
Sadly though, the effort ended up in a losing cause as the Blackcaps proved a notch better on the day. New Zealand registered a convincing victory by 24 runs and started off the series on a winning note.
Brief Scores: New Zealand: 292/7 in 50 overs (Kane Williamson 71, Corey Anderson 68*, Mohammed Shami 4/55) India: 268-10 in 48.4 overs (Virat Kohli 123, MS Dhoni 40, Mitchell McClenaghan 4/68)
Corey Anderson - 2nd ODI, Hamilton (22 January 2014)
The second ODI of the series was interrupted by rain to play a spoilsport in a riveting contest. After being put into bat first by India's MS Dhoni, New Zealand were helped by its top 5 batters as once again, they ended up posting a healthy total of 271 in a rain-curtailed innings.
Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor notched up half-centuries while Corey Anderson blazed away with a 17-ball-44 towards the end, providing the impetus to the innings. The left-hander pummelled two fours and five towering sixes as he took the Indian bowlers to the cleaners during the death overs.
In addition to his heroics with the bat, the all-rounder also helped the team's cause with the ball in hand.
Taking three timely wickets in the second innings, Anderson put brakes on the Indian team's chase. The left-handed cricketer also accounted for the prized scalp of MS Dhoni, handing a major blow to the visitors' hopes of achieving the target.
Following the fall of MS Dhoni, the doors of the visiting team were thrown wide open as wickets fell in a hurry. With the rain having the final say in the 42nd over, India fell short of the DLS set target by 15 runs as New Zealand registered their second victory of the series.
Brief Scores: New Zealand 271-7 in 42 overs (Kane Williamson 77, Ross Taylor 57, Mohammed Shami 3/55) India 277-9 in 41.3 overs (Virat Kohli 78, MS Dhoni 56, Tim Southee 4/72)
Ravindra Jadeja - 3rd ODI, Auckland (25 January)
As things would turn out, the third ODI was India's only solace in the bilateral series against New Zealand in 2014.
Already trailing the home team by 0-2, India came into the game in a must-win situation. MS Dhoni's love affair with the coin toss continued as New Zealand were once again put in to bat first by the Indian skipper.
Martin Guptill led the charge from the front as he slammed a century while being ably supported by Kane Williamson. Cameos from Luke Ronchi and Tim Southee powered New Zealand to a daunting score of 314 runs. For India, Ravindra Jadeja was the pick of the bowlers. In a high-scoring affair, the left-arm spinner ended up with remarkable figures of 2/47 in his 10 overs.
The southpaw shone with the bat too when India came out in their pursuit of the target. After being let down by the team's marquee players, Jadeja joined hands with Ravichandran Ashwin to script one of India's most thrilling finishes.
The man from Saurashtra smashed a 45-ball-66 to help India bag a tie in a high-voltage thriller. The knock came at a strike rate of 146.67 as Jadeja smoked 5 boundaries and 4 sixes.
Brief Scores: New Zealand 314-10 in 50 overs (Martin Guptill 111, Kane Williamson 65, Ravindra Jadeja 2/47) India 314-9 in 50 overs (Ravindra Jadeja 66, Ravichandran Ashwin 65, Corey Anderson 5/63)
Ross Taylor - 4th ODI, Hamilton (28 January)
Things returned to Hamilton for the penultimate game in the ODI series. Taking the field with an unassailable lead of 2-0, the Blackcaps looked determined to the seal the series while India hoped for a better fortune after tieing the previous encounter.
Opting to bat first, India lost Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane early. The team then banked on Rohit Sharma, MS Dhoni, and Ravindra Jadeja to register a respectable score of 278 runs in 50 overs.
Coming into the chase, New Zealand made light work of the target. While Kane Williamson and skipper Brendon McCullum made valuable contributions, it was Ross Taylor's century that proved to be the difference between the two sides.
Taylor's 127-ball-112 stood as New Zealand's cornerstone as the team never looked out of sorts during the chase. The veteran batsman composed a measured knock and emerged as the Indian attack's chief destroyer.
New Zealand cruised home in the 49th over with 7 wickets to spare as the Indians were handed yet another series loss on an overseas tour.
Brief Scores: India 278-5 in 50 overs (MS Dhoni 79*, Rohit Sharma 79, Tim Southee 2/36) New Zealand 280-3 in 48.1 overs (Ross Taylor 112*, Kane Williamson 60, Varun Aaron 1/51)
Ross Taylor - 5th ODI, Wellington (31 January)
A visibly deflated Indian team hoped to salvage some pride by bagging a consolation victory in the final encounter of the ODI series. However, that was not the case to be as New Zealand once again proved their dominance with both bat and ball.
Batting first, the home team was fuelled by solid contributions from the bats of Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor. While the former struck a classy 88, the latter continued his good form and registered his second consecutive ton of the ODI series.
Battered to all parts of the ground, the Indian bowlers were found wanting ahead of Taylor's batsmanship. The right-handed batsman played a match-winning knock of 102 and was rightly adjourned as the Man of the Match.
The Indian innings turned out to be a sorry affair as no batsman, barring Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni, had an answer to New Zealand's bowling unit. Matt Henry wreaked havoc with 4 wickets while Kyle Mills and Kane Williamson chipped in with two wickets each.
The visitors were bundled out for 216 runs, marking a memorable 4-0 series victory for New Zealand.
Brief Scores: New Zealand 303-5 in 50 overs (Ross Taylor 102, Kane Williamson 88, Varun Aaron 2/60) India 216-10 in 49.4 overs (Virat Kohli 82, MS Dhoni 47, Matt Henry 4/38)