New Zealand's plan of loading their side with seamers paid off as they bullied an alarmingly reckless Indian top order under lights to seal a 200-run rout and gain a bonus point. Ross Taylor and Scott Styris played risk-free yet attacking cricket to lift New Zealand from 28 for 3 to 288 before their bowlers let the conditions do the work for them as India's technically inept batsmen crumbled without a fight to their fifth lowest score in ODIs, and fourth heaviest defeat batting second.
It was a script that had worked well for India in the Asia Cup final at the same venue, but this time the boot was on the wrong foot. Virender Sehwag and Dinesh Karthik struggled to get used to the pace of the wicket, but survived the early overs and looked set to launch the chase before things began to go awry. Daryl Tuffey had started his spell with a gentle loosener outside off but gradually reworked his lengths to trouble all batsmen despite operating below 130 kph. Sehwag perished first, falling to his old weakness against the short ball aimed at the body. He had already survived a top-edge trying to pull Tuffey but, in the seventh over, he gloved Kyle Mills through to the keeper. Karthik got a rough decision in the next over, as Tuffey struck his pads with an in-ducker and Simon Taufel upheld the appeal though the batsman was well forward.
In his short stay at the crease, Rohit Sharma had all his weaknesses as a batsman exposed, flicking uppishly, and playing around his front pad before guiding a short ball outside off lamely into Taylor's hands at first slip. Suresh Raina was guilty of indecisive footwork, poking from the crease at another bait outside off from Tuffey. MS Dhoni attempted to stem the rot with singles but Tuffey would not have any of that either. Swooping in on a tap to the off side, he threw down the stumps with Dhoni out of his crease after being sent back by the non-striker. When Yuvraj stuck to the theme of the evening, edging a fuller one outside off into the cordon, India had lost their top six for 23 runs in under 10 overs and the chase was as good as over.
While India's reply was one-sided, New Zealand's innings typified the ebb and flow of the one-day format. Taylor and Styris added 190 and throughout the stand were playing to a plan. They had identified around 260 as a defendable score, and were keen to not over-reach. Coming together with the innings in tatters, they survived some testing times mostly against Praveen Kumar before shifting gears.
The introduction of spin allowed the pair to settle into a survive-and-steal mode. They eventually found their feet as the ball lost its shine, lashing through the packed off-side field for boundaries. Ravindra Jadeja bowled a listless spell, and his introduction in the 18th over signalled the beginning of New Zealand's resurgence. Having threaded the spinners through the off side with an array of cuts, carves and glides in a relatively quiet fifty, Taylor eventually unleashed his favourite slog-sweep, tonking Sehwag with the spin over square-leg. The tide had turned and once Styris reached his fifty, New Zealand took the batting Powerplay in the 31st over.
Styris chipped Jadeja over the top and latched on to the over-compensation in length by cutting him square for fours. Both batsmen read Ojha's flight to pick fours in the 33rd as India began to feel the heat. Dhoni was forced to bring his seamers back but there was no respite: Styris creamed Nehra over point and down the ground, while Taylor swatted Praveen on either side of the wicket as 43 runs came in the five-over block. Abhimanyu Mithun had left the field with heat stroke after four overs and, on a pitch favouring the fast bowlers, India missed him badly.The force was clearly with New Zealand, and though Nehra came back well to stall them in the end overs, there was enough momentum to reach an imposing score.
Things did not begin so well though. Within the first two overs, Praveen and Nehra showed what India had missed in the Tests: genuine swing. Praveen got the ball to move both ways, darting into the right-handers late, and holding back the length to hit the seam and take them away. Martin Guptill nicked one of the away-swingers to Dhoni while Nehra accounted for Peter Ingram in similar fashion. Kane Williamson, the debutant, was then nailed by one that darted away from the middle-and-leg line to hit off stump as he shaped to flick.
Though Styris and Taylor began to play their shots, Dhoni kept attacking with close-in fielders and Styris almost fell for the trap. He stepped out against Ojha and missed the loft, but Dhoni fluffed the stumping with the batsman well out of the crease. It was the only error in an otherwise sprightly fielding effort, and it cost India plenty. Under lights, their batsmen made several more and it cost India the match.