Auckland: Coming off a first-ball duck, Shreyas Iyer found form with a neat half-century before Washington Sundar blazed away to a 16-ball 37 to guide India to a competitive 306 for seven in the first ODI against New Zealand here on Friday.
Besides Iyer’s 76-ball 80, Shikhar Dhawan (72 off 77 balls) and Shubman Gill (50 off 65) too struck fluent fifties after the tourists were sent in to bat.
Sundar smashed three sixes and as many fours to prop up India at the death, while Iyer hit four maximums and four boundaries, having entered the game after his duck in the final T20 International two days ago.
New Zealand decided to field first after winning the toss and while Kane Williamson’s bowlers prevented the Indians from getting off to a flyer, skipper Dhawan and Gill opened up after being watchful.
Having reached 40 in the first 10 overs after Gill was dropped by Lockie Ferguson off the bowling of Matt Henry, the Indian openers sought to improve the run rate and looked for boundaries.
Their quest paid off as India went past 100 in the 21st over with both Dhawan and Gill clearing the ropes on a regular basis.
Dhawan slashed Henry behind deep point and clipped him off pads in the 15th over to get two successive fours.
The India captain then got two more boundaries, off Adam Milne, including a smart upper cut to bring up India’s hundred.
Having already hit two sixes over long-on and third man, for which he employed an excellent ramp shot, Gill got his third maximum when he smashed left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner down the ground and into the sightscreen.
Even as Dhawan got two boundaries against Tim Southee, Gill swept Santner for a boundary and closed in on fifty.
However, right after reaching his half-century, Gill got out after failing to clear Devon Conway in the deep off Ferguson.
Looking in fine fettle, Dhawan too was dismissed soon after as he hit Southee straight to Finn Allen at point.
Both the India openers were back in the hut after playing sensible cricket, paving the way for Iyer and Rishabh Pant’s arrival in the middle.
While Pant got off the mark with a four to deep third man region after he pushed at a Southee length ball, Iyer played the upper cut off a quick Ferguson delivery to begin his innings.
But New Zealand managed to pull things back with the wickets of Dhawan and Gill.
When on 11, Iyer was offered a life by Tom Latham after the batter had attempted the ramp shot against a short Milne delivery.
However, a ball after guiding Ferguson to the fine leg boundary, Pant went for the pull but dragged it onto his stumps, bringing to an end an innings that failed to inspire confidence.
That brought into the middle the man-in-form, Suryakumar Yadav, who got off the mark with an exquisite cover drive. But, two balls, later, he was walking back to the dressing room after edging the nippy Ferguson to Allen at first slip.
On a ground with short boundaries, the hosts looked comfortable with India at 160 for four in the 33rd over.
But the duo of Iyer and Sanju Smason (36 off 38 balls) forged a 94-run partnership to steady the ship until the latter fell to a brilliant catch by Glenn Phillips.
During the course of his knock, Iyer also became only the second batter after Rameez Raja to score four or more successive 50 plus scores in New Zealand.