Beautiful Latham ton's series-opening defeat against India

In the series opener against India on Friday in Auckland, Tom Latham's magnificent century and Kane Williamson's unbeaten 94 helped New Zealand chase down 307 and win (November 25). With a challenging task before of them, Latham and Williamson teamed together and completed it quickly. Their undefeated 221-run stand handed New Zealand a 1-0 lead.

It wasn't the best of starts for New Zealand. Although Arshdeep Singh was challenged by Finn Allen and Devon Conway to score 25 runs off his three overs, the opposite end struggled to score runs. Yuzvendra Chahal gave Allen a reprieve, but Shardul Thakur produced a great opening spell that led to a wicket when he caught Allen two balls later. After that, Umran Malik made an impression on his debut with his pace, and Washington controlled the runs to put pressure on New Zealand. Conway eventually gave in as he pursued a full and wide delivery from Umran while lagging behind.

Similar to Umran, Daryl Mitchell also misjudged a wide ball from him and tumbled as the fielder at the point boundary made a routine catch to give India the lead by halftime. But things did alter gradually. After a protracted period of sluggishness, Williamson finally became extremely fluent, but Latham shocked the audience. He first took the back seat, rotating the strike to good effect, but as he moved closer to fifty, Latham changed his strategy.

The left-hander grabbed charge as he signaled his intentions by collecting a six and a four off consecutive deliveries against Umran. The left-hander is known for playing spin well in the middle overs. With 11 overs remaining in the chase, the game was still in doubt, but the 40th over dramatically turned the tide in New Zealand's favor. Latham destroyed Shardul Thakur by hitting four fours and a six to bring up a 76-ball century and reduce the equation to 66 from the last 10. The outcome was pretty much predetermined after that. 

In the morning, half-centuries from the top order and Washington's final-over cameo propelled India to 306/7. On a surface where hitting improved as the innings went on, particularly because of the narrower boundaries either side, the total did seem to be average.

With the new ball bouncing about during the powerplay, Gill and Dhawan got things going carefully. Kane Williamson had no hesitation choosing to bowl first because the pitch had been covered for a significant amount of time; his choice was supported. Dhawan did manage to hit a few boundaries in the first three overs, but once Matt Henry began to pose difficulties, he swiftly withdrew. Only 40 runs had been scored by India after the first ten overs. Even while runs gradually began to flow after the first period, the openers still had a lot of catching up to do at a field with relatively close square boundaries.

Both Dhawan and Gill soon reached the age of fifty, and once Gill had calmed down, he adopted a stern demeanor. New Zealand really needed a wicket after the pair scored more than 100, and Lockie Ferguson delivered. Gill was superbly timed to be caught in close proximity to the boundary, while Dhawan fell in the next over. After Ferguson removed Rishabh Pant and Suryakumar Yadav in the same over, India was forced to retreat once more.

Iyer then teamed up with Sanju Samson to restart India. Despite a few reprieves from New Zealand, Iyer recovered to score a critical fifty, while Samson at the other end was able to calm down as well. Before Samson perished, India was poised to surpass 300 at 240/4 after 44 overs. After that, Washington took over and stunned New Zealand with an unbeaten 37 off only 16 balls by producing some fantastic strokes at the very end. It was good enough to get India over the 300 mark but not good enough to keep them from falling behind 1-0.


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