In the opening game of a three-match series at Eden Park on Friday, Tom Latham once again demonstrated why he is an ever-reliable middle-order batsman for New Zealand by scoring his seventh ODI century to secure a seven-wicket victory over India.
At 88/3 in 19.5 overs, New Zealand was in trouble when Shreyas Iyer top-scored with 80 off 76 balls and captain Shikhar Dhawan and Shubman Gill hit 72 and 50, respectively, in their fourth hundred-plus stand as an opening pair this year to lead India to a difficult 306/7.
But Latham took control of the match by destroying India's inexperienced bowling lineup for a career-best score of 145 off 104 balls, laced with 19 fours and five sixes.
He also put together an unbroken 221-run partnership with skipper Kane Williamson off 165 balls. Williamson was the ideal partner and remained unbeaten at 94 not out with 17 balls left to complete the total chase. When Latham and Williamson were attacking India, they lost control of the ball, especially after the 40th over.
Washington Sundar, after a brilliant burst of 37 not out off 16 balls, was frugal in his stint of 0/42 although Umran Malik, on his ODI debut, did worry the Blackcaps with his two wickets. The remaining bowlers, including left-arm pacer Arshdeep Singh, who was making his debut, were blasted for runs.
Finn Allen and Devon Conway scored five boundaries in the first five overs of the 307-run chase. Yuzvendra Chahal dropped Allen at short mid-wicket off Shardul Thakur. However, the pacer took the outer edge off Allen's bat on the third pitch of the eighth over, resulting in a catch behind.
After the power play, Conway attempted a booming drive but failed due to a thin edge behind the keeper, giving Malik his first ODI defeat. When Daryl Mitchell mishandled a slice to deep point after four overs, Malik added another victim to his list of victims.
Williamson and Latham worked together to restart New Zealand's chase after they reached 88/3 in 19.5 overs. Before cutting Malik twice through the off-side to get three fours in two overs, Latham first swept Yuzvendra Chahal.
Williamson and Latham pounced on a sparing Sundar, with the former blasting a six over long-on and the later earning a four by sweeping through backward square leg. Latham split the field in half with a flawless sweep off Chahal for four before Williamson pulled Thakur through square leg to complete his fifty off 54 balls.
Latham raised his fifty as the pair changed gears by latching onto anything that was short, had some width outside the off-stump, or down leg. Latham, who excelled at running between the wickets, used effortless flicks, pick-up shots, and pulls in addition to his trademark sweeps to surpass Williamson in scoring.
In the 40th over, Latham then destroyed Thakur by drawing over deep backward square leg for six, then scoring four straight goals, three of which were blasted through the leg-side. With a single to long-on, he would go on to score his second ODI century against India and add 25 runs to the over.
From there, the outcome was inevitable as Latham and Williamson scored nine boundaries from 42.2 to 47.1 overs, with the last one being skilfully guided beyond third man by the New Zealand captain off Arshdeep to give the hosts a 1-0 series lead.
Dhawan and Gill earlier overcame a sluggish start to have a strong opening stand of 124 in 23.1 overs. He and Shubman Gill were held in check by New Zealand during the power-play because the pitch was difficult to bat on. While Gill tonked Matt Henry over long-on for six and utilised his speed to ramp another maximum over the keeper's head, Dhawan did smash four goals.
With a lovely cut, Gill moved India to fifty in the 13th over, but Dhawan had to step it up for India. In the 15th over, he took back-to-back fours off Ferguson and cut Milne uppishly twice for a pair of fours.
In the 21st over, off Milne, Dhawan hit a four-ball rocket over long-on to get his fifty. Four balls later, he ramped over the keeper's head for four to reach the opening partnership's century. Gill would hit his half-century three overs later. But New Zealand rallied, taking four wickets in just 36 runs.
Gil's flip straight to deep square leg caused Ferguson to end the opening partnership. Tim Southee's 200th ODI wicket came when Dhawan sliced straight to backward point in the following over. Ferguson then caused the in-form Suryakumar Yadav and Rishabh Pant to fall in quick succession.
Iyer stepped up to help India reach a large total by partnering with Sanju Samson for a 94-run stand (36). Iyer accelerated with his signature cut, loft, and pull off the front foot to get his fifty after fending off a lbw appeal and Latham's lost catch. Samson made the majority of his boundaries by utilising the bowlers' speed to dab or flick and easily locate the openings.
Samson holed out to a fielder off Milne, but Washington stepped up and hit Southee over wide long on for six before ramping Milne for another maximum over third man. In the 49th over, he struck Henry for two fours and a six, and in the final over, he smashed another boundary to take India past 300.
Brief Scores: India 306/7 in 50 overs (Shreyas Iyer 80, Shikhar Dhawan 72; Lockie Ferguson 3/59, Tim Southee 3/73) lost to New Zealand 309/3 in 47.1 overs (Tom Latham 145 not out, Kane Williamson 94 not out; Umran Malik 2/66, Shardul Thakur 1/63) by seven wickets