India reign in New Zealand wet

Napier, March 3:

The strike power of Virender Sehwag, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Suresh Raina delivered India a 53-run win in a rain-marred opening one-day international (ODI) against New Zealand here today.

It was the perfect response from India after they lost the two Twenty20 matches. With the match first reduced to 38 overs each, under the D/L system New Zealand were set an imposing target of 278 in reply to India’s 273-4.

They were already watching the run rate rise at an alarming rate when a second rain disruption revised the target to 216 from 28 overs, meaning New Zealand needed 105 from the remaining 7.1 overs. They flayed away, but the game was already gone and at the close New Zealand were 162-9.

The damage was done at the start when opener Sehwag set the pace with a typically aggressive 77 and Dhoni provided stability with an unbeaten 84. But when it became obvious the run rate would be crucial after the first two-hour rain break, Raina blazed away for 66 off 39 balls. Sachin Tendulkar (20) was removed in the 10th over when Sehwag had pushed the team score to 69.

Sehwag and Dhoni upped the tempo and reached 121 in the 19th over, until Sehwag’s punishing spell ended when he belted Daniel Vettori towards the boundary only to see Ross Taylor take a magnificent catch diving to his left. Raina increased the pace further as he clubbed five fours and four sixes putting on 110 for the fourth wicket with Dhoni.

Martin Guptill put some backbone to the hosts’ innings with 64 off 70 balls but his dismissal sparked a dramatic collapse with four wickets falling in five balls. Harbhajan Singh had Guptill caught by Gautam Gambhir and next ball Neil Broom was stumped by Dhoni. Kyle Mills survived one ball, to deny Harbhajan the hat-trick.

Butler holed out in the deep to Zaheer Khan on the first ball of the next over. At 132-9 it was left to Vettori and O’Brien to bat out the remaining four overs. The second match of the five-game series is in Wellington on Friday.