COMMENT

After the coin toss, my message to a mate at McLean Park said: "Perfect conditions — up to New Zealand to bat well and make a game of it." What followed was an awkward reminder of four years ago at the Cricket World Cup final when New Zealand's poor batting went a long way towards delivering Australia the title.

The Black Caps did not cope with that pressure and faced with a similar challenge against the champion Indian side in Napier, they melted when they were allowed to play in the sunlight.

Captain Kane Williamson did his best to fan the flames of a duel with Indian commander Virat Kohli but he fell to a uncharacteristic brain fade after a break. No wonder the usually unflappable Williamson bowed his head and filled his batting helmet with angry comments as he wandered away from the crease.

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The remedial list for coach Gary Stead and his team is hefty enough while NZ Cricket has to question whether the venue is a viable choice for international matches. Crowd numbers were down and the 37-minute delay for sunstrike added a farcical element to the disappointment.

New Zealand looked short of batting belief from the bemused moment Martin Guptill was bowled playing a defensive shot. At least New Zealand have four more chances against India to rectify their opening staggers and fight through the series to regain some balance for their mid-year World Cup quest.

Everyone from the players to the administrators, those who made the effort to go to the game and the rest who tuned in will be a touch numb about the match. After a run of strong recent results and resulting optimism New Zealand could give India a good run throughout the series, they stumbled at the first chance.

Were they spooked by India's reputation or undone by hometown expectation? Why did they look so flat and how could they be so far off the pace? They were not in the same league as India. Not in that game anyway, and inquiries about their ability will persist until their chance of retribution tomorrow at Blake Park in Mt Maunganui.

From the time the persistently sharp Mohammed Shami broke Guptill's resistance, India squeezed the fight out of New Zealand and had too much sting even without the bowling talents of Jasprit Bumrah, on leave, and several colleagues sidelined for disciplinary reasons.

Williamson's batting matched his reputation and Doug Bracewell had several encouraging spells with the ball but there was a general downturn in production. They did not look tuned in.

When ODI matches go awry they quickly become lame contests and Napier was one of those duds.

But the flip-side for New Zealand is they have four more chances to get their game sorted while those outside the boundary can take heart from cricket fan Eric Idle and his Always Look on the Bright Side of Life theme.

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