By all accounts Corey Anderson was down in the dumps these past few days.
It's a rapid plummet from the dizzy heights of a world record and the big New Zealand allrounder was feeling it.
Coach Mike Hesson publicly labelled Anderson fatigued, saying he'd benefit from a break amid a hectic schedule that stretched back to the NZ A tour of India in September.
Since Anderson's 14 huge sixes in a 36-ball century against West Indies in Queenstown on January 1, he'd barely been able to buy a run and his bowling was leaking.
So when he strode in alongside his captain Brendon McCullum at 171-4 with 14 overs remaining yesterday, it was the ideal platform to launch from. Even better, the opponents were India in a much-awaited tour opener that would set the tone for the series.
Indian pacemen Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami certainly know what the fuss is all about now. Each was deposited onto the roof of the Harris Stand with booming pull shots, with those respective white Kookaburras never to be seen again.
When Anderson finished swinging his chunk of willow he was 68 not out off 40 balls and New Zealand had a total to defend, 292-7. Four times he cleared the rope.
You don't suddenly become a bad player overnight but Anderson had to make a statement, fast. Queenstown was no fluke and he can certainly bat, a fact now rammed home to millions of Indian viewers and more importantly, some wealthy Indian Premier League team owners.
A few more of these wrecking ball innings this series and bidding wars might escalate at next month's IPL auction. Matchwinning allrounders are hot property, and Anderson later showed his golden arm qualities when removing Indian batsmen Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane in quick succession.
Having been sent in to bat, New Zealand paced their innings well, knowing that a total of 280-290 was probably par at McLean Park. The trusted formula of having three wickets down at the 35-over point was followed to the letter after Kane Williamson (71 off 88) and Ross Taylor (55 off 82) batted sensibly, knowing the firepower to come.
Gloveman Luke Ronchi kept his name in lights too with a rapid 30 off 18, twice slog-sweeping India's top-10 ranked spinner Ravindra Jadeja over the rope.
The total ensured a good contest and set the tone for an absorbing five-match series which moves to Hamilton on Wednesday.
A crowd of 7576 turned up, disappointing in the 12,000-capacity venue given the pulling power of India, but it seemed like plenty more.
Drums pounded and horns honked outside as excited Indian fans danced and chanted. When captain MS Dhoni led his team out the hordes surged forward in the Harris Stand to take pictures and emitted a huge roar. Openers Jesse Ryder and Martin Guptill got a golf clap by comparison.
There were so many orange t-shirts dotting the ground in search of a $100,000 catch it looked like India versus the Netherlands, not New Zealand.
India's bowlers were a mixed bag on a pitch that offered them little.
Mohammed Shami (4-55) was the pick at 140kmh with a bolt-upright seam which could trouble New Zealand's batsmen on the green test pitches. He removed Ryder and Guptill to loose strokes, the latter still struggling for his timing.
The experienced Ishant Sharma was down on pace and couldn't land it in the same spot twice while Bhuvneshwar Kumar swung the ball both ways. Spinners Jadeja and Ravi Ashwin were handled comfortably with little assistance from the pitch.
New Zealand's batsmen should fancy their chances of going big this series on last night's evidence.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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