Fighting BLACKCAPS lose opener

A BLACKCAPS side missing captain Daniel Vettori and key batsman Brendon McCullum, who are both resting back injuries, put in a late bid for victory but came up short as they lost the first one-day cricket international against India by 40 runs in Guwahati today.

In fading light on a Nehru Stadium pitch taking considerable turn, Nathan McCullum and Kyle Mills launched an audacious assault on India's 276 but came unstuck as New Zealand folded to be dismissed for 236 in 45.2 overs.

Stand-in captain Ross Taylor -- who earlier inserted the Indians -- top-scored with 66 off 69 balls.

His dismissal with the chase at 157 for seven appeared to spell the end of New Zealand's chances but McCullum struck 35 off 35 balls and Mills 32 off 28 in a 67-run ninth-wicket stand which had the hosts sweating before both were dismissed in successive balls off seamer Shanthakumaran Sreesanth.

Taylor aside, the New Zealand top order struggled. Martin Guptill reached 30 before lobbing an easy catch into the deep, Kane Williamson took 51 balls to compile 25 while the others never got going on a surface in which 19 of the day's 20 dismissals were caught.

Sreesanth and spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Yuvraj Singh all claimed three wickets to defend a total that was always going to be hard to overhaul, although it could have been more.

India were on track to clear 300, particularly when centurion Virat Kohli was in full flight, but some injudicious shot-making saw them lose their last seven wickets for 56 runs.

Seamers Mills and Andy McKay were the most impressive performers, both employing bouncers of various speed to good effect in the middle and latter stages.

Left-arm speedster McKay claimed four for 62 and Mills three for 42 while Jamie How held four catches to cap a generally slick New Zealand performance in the field.

Kohli's second straight one-day century formed the backbone of India's innings, reaching 105 off 104 balls, including 10 fours.

His top order cohorts all contributed. Openers Murali Vijay and Gautam Gambhir both at about a run-a-ball with knocks of 29 and 32 respectively.

Yuvraj Singh compiled a more sedate 42 while Yusuf Pathan provided the late fireworks with 29 off 19.

India have rested many of their leading players for at least the first two matches of this series, namely regular captain MS Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh.

It is hoped Vettori and McCullum will be available for New Zealand in the second one-dayer at Jaipur on Wednesday.

Coach Mark Greatbatch said Vettori had complained of lower back stiffness since New Zealand lost the third and final test at Nagpur -- handing that series to India 1-0.

Brendon McCullum, who suffered a back spasm at the start of that test, still had soreness which needed to clear, Greatbatch said.

"We wanted to give them until this morning to see how they were but it's clear they need a few more days to recover," he said.

"We considered playing Brendon as a batsman only but that could delay his recovery so we took a longer term view."

NZPA

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