India at home is a dangerous side, across formats and ever since Virat Kohli has been given the charge of the team, the results have only improved. India are yet to lose an ODI series under Kohli’s leadership, having won over Zimbabwe, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, West Indies, England and Australia. It went without saying that New Zealand were not even close to being favourites when they flew down to India for the limited-overs series. To make the situation worse, they had issues in the opening pair along with middle-order woes. In order to restore their strengths at No. 3 and 4 – Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor – they decided to experiment with their top and middle order with inexperience.
Colin Munro, who had never opened an innings in the 24 ODIs he had played until Sunday, became the Martin Guptil’s fourth opening partner after Tom Latham, Dean Brownlie, and Luke Ronchi, since Brendon McCullum’s last ODI. he replaced Latham, who was pushed down to No. 5. In the last 10 innings where he had opened, he had seven single-digit scores that were inclusive of three duck out dismissals and all the poor string of scores came against top-ranked sides like Australia and South Africa. Prior to the first ODI against India, Latham had notched up a century and two fifties at either No. 1 or No. 2 but since those innings came against the teams like Ireland and Bangladesh, New Zealand considered to push him down to the No. 5 spot left vacant by Neil Broom’s poor form in the Champions Trophy.
Victory for the BLACKCAPS by 6 wickets – an unbeaten century to Tom Latham, 95 from Ross Taylor and four wickets from Trent Boult! #indvnz
— BLACKCAPS (@BLACKCAPS) October 22, 2017
Latham’s decent performance against Ireland and Bangladesh was not enough to convince the selectors and hence he ended up warming the bench throughout New Zealand’s Champions Trophy campaign. The last time Latham was in India, he accumulated 438 runs in the Test and ODI series, including five half-centuries, and ended with a respectable average of 44. But those were all scored as an opener. In the two warm-up matches played at Brabourne Stadium before the first ODI at Wankhede, Latham bolstered his confidence by scoring 59 and 108.
New Zealand, off-late, have shown over dependency for the runs flow on its captain. However, when Kuldeep Yadav once again struck for India, removed the big fish. Kane Williamson had to walk back for just six runs and that wicket brought in their second-best Ross Taylor at the crease. After the visitors added another 20 runs, Hardik Pandya with his sharp length forced Guptill to play a wrong shot and restricted the BlackCaps to 80 for 3. With another 201 runs required with seven wickets in hand, Taylor and Latham had quite a task ahead of them in testing conditions of Mumbai and slow track of Wankhede.
If one said that Virat Kohli had taken a lot of risks in his record-breaking century, the New Zealand duo went two steps ahead in the risk-taking as they put up a 200-stand to the touring party gained an early confidence by going 1-0 up in the three-ODI series.
Latham and Taylor, literally stoke Kohli’s thunder, as their partnership went on to become the highest for any visiting pair against India in India while chasing. The previous highest was an unbroken 189 between Andrew Hall and Graeme Smith in Kolkata in 2005-06. Overall it’s the joint third-biggest partnership when chasing against India. It was New Zealand’s only third win against India in India while chasing and this fact spoke volumes about their mindset at the moment.
— ICC (@ICC) October 22, 2017
Ever before the match, there were several discussions about apart from Williamson it would be Latham who could deal with the vicious spin spell from the Indian attack and that exactly turned out to be true. Even before the spinners were introduced, Taylor and Latham were prepared to tackle them like no visiting batsman has done in the recent times.
When Kuldeep Yadav was introduced, he trapped Guptill in LBW but the decision was overturned after the New Zealander reviewed but the spinner immediately pushed the pressure towards the New Zealand side. In his next over, he dismissed the Kiwi captain and everything seemed to work like before and Kohli would have been a relief. After Latham walked to join Taylor in the middle, from there turned the situation and the pressure made a switch between the teams.
Smartly and gradually, Taylor and Latham made themselves comfortable against the entire Indian attack. They negated the spin duo of Chahal and Yadav, while they went after the pace attack of Bhuveneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya and whenever there was an opportunity they scored a boundary, to keep the asking rate under control. Taylor tried to keep his innings risk-free, not going after the big shots occasionally and played the second fiddle to the charged up Latham. The latter, on the other hand, played aggressively but was calculated throughout the knock.
The 200 run partnership between Latham and Taylor was not only the biggest at Wankhede Stadium, but the biggest in India in an ODI #indvnz
— BLACKCAPS (@BLACKCAPS) October 22, 2017
The sight of watching him became even better when Latham began to play with the spinners as he swept and reverse-swept 20 of the 51 balls and took 35 of his 58 runs of spin through those two shots. Taylor chose the high road as he tried to play his favourite leg side shots as little as he could but continued to cut the balls as much as he could. The spinners tried everything they could, but failed to break the partnership, that only grew stronger with every passing over. When New Zealand needed 30 at run-a-ball, Kohli had used up all the allotted overs of his two spinners and even if the seamers broke the stand, it would be next to impossible to clear the middle and lower order in the remaining overs.
When Latham was a couple of runs away from a well deserved century, the crowd in Wankhede woke up. The true spirit of Mumbai was experienced as the entire country witnessed the Mumbaikers stand on feet as they cheered as hard as they could watching Latham enter the triple digits. Taylor, meanwhile, could have chosen to walk behind Latham to record a century for himself, but he chose to settle with the singles and extra runs offered by the opposition. The Indian team finally struck but it was too late. Taylor was dismissed on 95 when the scores levelled. It was one of the most beautiful moments in cricket when a batsman, who had missed out on a century, walked out of the field, head held high with a huge smile on his face that showed not a bit of disappointment.