NAPIER // India thumped New Zealand by 53 runs in a rain-shortened one-day international yesterday to claim the opening game in the five-match series. India rebounded from two Twenty20 defeats by the Kiwis in the past week to amass a daunting 273-4 from 38 overs - thanks largely to their captain MS Dhoni's 84 from 89 balls - after the innings was interrupted for two and a half hours by wet weather.
Under the Duckworth-Lewis method, New Zealand's target was revised to 216 off 28 overs following a second heavy downpour and they could only muster 162-9. "It was disappointing right from the start," the captain Daniel Vettori said. "India outplayed us and we just didn't quite get it right with the ball. "Some quality players stepped up for them and they made it very difficult for the bowlers," Vettori added. "We weren't able to bowl in our zones, we were sloppy in the field and it was India's day all -round."
After winning the toss and electing to bat, India left no doubts about their intentions as the opening batsman Virender Sehwag blasted 77. Sehwag hit 11 fours and a six to spur India to a competitive total. He hit 69 runs from 9.4 overs in a first-wicket partnership with Sachin Tendulkar, who was out for 20 when he feathered a catch from Ian Butler to the wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum. Sehwag's 34th limited-overs half century came off 37 balls as he saw India to 100 in 14 overs, joining in a 50-run partnership for the second wicket with Dhoni, who elected to bat first after winning the toss.
Dhoni, named man of the match, was ably supported by Suresh Raina (66). "I'm really pleased with that performance," Dhoni said. "The start was very important for us. We wanted to come out and post a big total." New Zealand's hopes of reaching their target suffered a major setback when the in-form Brendon McCullum, who scored two unbeaten half-centuries in the Twenty20 matches, was dismissed for a duck. Martin Guptill helped revive the run chase with a solid 64 and received strong support from Ross Taylor (31), but their chances disappeared when the off-spinner Harbhajan Singh captured three wickets in four balls.
"Lack of execution can catch you out against these guys and some quality players from them stepped up and put up a really good performance," Vettori said. The second match in Wellington starts on Friday. * Agencies