Intermittent rain and the shocking news of the Sri Lankan cricketers being attacked in Lahore robbed the first ODI of any joy even as India played strong cricket to comfortably take a 1-0 lead in the five-match series.
After a couple of bright and sunny days, the rain arrived as forecast, twice disrupting the match.
India, who chose to bat, were 27 without loss when their innings was curtailed to 38 overs. Fortunately, Virender Sehwag (77) was on song and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who promoted himself up to No 3, plucked a leaf out of Brendon McCullum’s book in playing an innings that was as sensible and valuable as it was unexciting.
While Dhoni set his stall out for the long haul, Suresh Raina took over from where the stroke-filled Sehwag left off, launching a delightful counter-attack. Raina targetted unconventional areas and his bat swung clean arcs in quick speed to send the ball high and wide.
Though Raina’s big hits were nothing like the wristy artistry you associate with Indian batsman, each of his four sixes and five fours pushed the hosts further back.
Partnerships of 69, 52 and 110 – with Yuvraj Singh’s run out proving to be the only blip – ensured that India had enough on the board for any eventuality. Dhoni, unbeaten on 84, had fulfilled his aim of protecting and sustaining partnerships and ended with a strike rate of nearly 95.
Daniel Vettori had banked on his top four to deliver the goods, but just as he was let down by his bowlers and fielders, the New Zealand captain’s hands were tied through the chase.
Brendon McCullum top-edged Praveen Kumar to be caught on the ropes for a duck, Jesse Ryder tried to hit Praveen out of the ground and only managed to send the ball straight up in the air. At 23 for 2, New Zealand had begun to shoot themselves in the foot.
Ross Taylor also fell to a top-edge and at 111 for 4 the second rain stoppage left New Zealand resuming with a target of 216 from 28 overs.
Jacob Oram became the fourth top-edge candidate on the first ball after play resumed and the game as a contest ended. Harbhajan Singh picked up three wickets in four balls and when they ran out of deliveries, New Zealand were 53 short of the target.