Hanuma Vihari didn't mind combating Neil Wagner's bouncer salvo. The composed right-hander anticipated the short deliveries early, shuffled across, and executed the premeditated hooks with aplomb. Earlier, Prithvi Shaw had repelled New Zealand's new-ball advance, marmalizing crisp drives and backfoot punches which glittered flamboyance. The message was loud and clear - India will take the bull by the horn.
Virat Kohli had already laid down the blueprint during the post-match press conference at Wellington. “We will definitely be much more positive." The skipper had pronounced after India's passive batting approach drew criticism.
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The newfangled proactivity reaped great dividends. Despite losing Mayank Agarwal cheaply, India's scoring rate never descended with Shaw channelizing his instinctive exuberance. Having negated few vicious spells, the prodigious youngster counter-attacked, throwing the kitchen sink at anything marginally loose on offer.
The scoreboard read 80/1 after 19 overs. Shaw, having accomplished the half-century landmark, went fishing after Kyle Jamieson's tempting half-volley and muffed the golden opportunity to conjure up an enormous hundred. Notwithstanding the opener's dismissal, India were the happier team going into the lunch break.
However, New Zealand, staying true to their reputation, bounced back as Virat Kohli, his head falling over precariously, was caught plumb by Tim Southee's shooter. Why Kohli even reviewed the on-field decision was beyond the realms of human understanding.
The momentum had been completely snatched from the visitors after Ajinkya Rahane's departure, but Cheteshwar Pujara and Vihari joined forces to prevent another collapse. While normal services resumed for Pujara, Vihari ensured India didn't slip into a defensive mindset. The junior counterpart punished freebies with utmost disdain, even unfurling few innovative slashes and pulls en route his enterprising fifty which wrestled India's advantage rather quickly.
'Harakiri' would be an understatement to describe the progression of events henceforth. India's 'intent' started bordering recklessness. Wagner kept the duo honest, mixing bumpers and cutters, and eventually provided the breakthrough as Vihari succumbed to the paceman's stock ball. Vihari should've displayed maturity and looked forward to consolidating India's position, but perished with the job only half done.
The biggest shocker came when Pujara, the epitome of concentration, attempted an obnoxious swat only to his, and his team's peril. Given the veteran's modus operandi, the shot-selection was simply inexplicable. Rishabh Pant's nervous presence got terminated forthwith, and the lower-order was asked to clean up the mess yet again.
India's attitude was refreshing, no doubt, but excess of everything is bad. Kohli's men paid the price for being overly adventurous. After putting New Zealand under the pump with some bold, street-smart cricket, India failed to capitalize and underachieved. Nevertheless, their bowling group furbished the glimmer of hope, maintaining probing lengths to keep Tom Latham and Tom Blundell under check. India ought to deal blows tomorrow morning and spice up the contest, because once New Zealand gain ascendancy, recovery could prove to be an uphill task.