DHARAMSALA, India: Bowlers set up India's comprehensive six-wicket win over New Zealand in the first one-day international as batting mainstay Virat Kohli anchored the hosts' chase in the low-scoring encounter in Dharamsala on Sunday (Oct 16).
The hosts, who were chasing a modest 191 for victory, rode on the 60-run partnership between Kohli (85 not out) and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni to canter home in 33.1 overs.
But it was the bowling led by debutant medium-pacer Hardik Pandya (3-31) and Amit Mishra (3-49) that helped topple New Zealand for a lowly 190 and set the platform for the big win.
Pace spearhead Umesh Yadav and off-spinner Kedar Jadhav also took two wickets each after the hosts elected to bowl first at the picturesque Dharamsala ground.
"Fantastic performance from the fast bowlers. We had no clue it (the pitch) would help the fast bowlers," Dhoni said after the win. "Hardik exploited the good length. Umesh is somebody who has been quite quick consistently, he has gone from fit to one of the fittest.
"Hardik is deceptive, you think he'd bowl 132, but he crosses 135 consistently," Dhoni said in praise of the 23-year-old pacer who was named man of the match.
New Zealand pacer Doug Bracewell checked India's brisk start after getting Rohit Sharma lbw for 14 after the batsman missed a fuller delivery while trying to flick it on the leg side.
Ajinkya Rahane did not last long after losing his opening partner as he was caught behind off James Neesham for 33, his knock laced with 4 fours and 2 sixes.
Kohli then put on 40 runs with Manish Pandey (17) as the duo looked to stabilise the chase.
Leg-spinner Ish Sodhi had Pandey walking back to the pavilion as the visitors made a valiant attempt to make inroads into the Indian middle order.
But Kohli stayed firm to record his 37th ODI fifty in 172 games as the prolific scorer hit 9 fours and a winning six during his 81-ball stay at the crease.
ROAD TO VICTORY
Returning paceman Tim Southee gave Kohli a reprieve on 60 after he dropped a caught and bowled chance, but the hosts were in the driving seat by then.
A mix-up between the two onfield batsmen resulted in Dhoni being run out for 21 but the wicket proved to be a mere hiccup in India's road to victory.
"India were too good, very good chasing side and they showed it today," said Williamson. "We were below par in all areas, we need to step that up. We're a tough unit, so we need to stick together and have to play our best cricket to beat India."
Earlier, the visitors managed to eke out some gains thanks to a 71-run stand between opener Tom Latham (79 not out) and Southee, but their total proved far from competitive.
Latham batted with purpose and defiance during his 98-ball knock while Southee attacked the Indian bowling with more abandon as he made 55 off 45 deliveries.
Pandya, who was at the receiving end of three boundaries by Martin Guptill in his opening over, got his revenge by having the opener caught at second slip for 12.
Yadav had star batsman Kane Williamson caught at third man after the Black Caps' skipper slashed at a wide delivery. He was on three.
Yadav then bowled Ross Taylor for a duck on the first delivery of his very next over to be on a hat-trick, only to be thwarted by Latham who went on to record his fifth ODI half century.
Pandya kept making inroads from the other end with the key wickets of the destructive Corey Anderson (4) and Luke Ronchi (0) as New Zealand slipped to 48 for five.
"We had to weather the storm a little bit, the first 10 overs they bowled really well and some soft dismissals. Disappointing with the bat," said Williamson.
Southee, who returned after missing the Test series with an ankle injury, took the attack to the opposition during his blitz as he hit 6 fours and 3 sixes.
India lead the five-match series 1-0 with the next game in Delhi on Oct 20.