Auckland v Kolkata, CLT20 qualifier, Hyderabad September 20, 2011

Auckland done in by lack of pace

Auckland's batsmen had hoped to take advantage of some pace in their chase, but floundered against an army of slower bowlers

From the moment Martin Guptill was run out first ball, there was a sense of foreboding to Auckland's chase. The asking rate was never going to be an issue, at least not till the very end. Auckland like pace on the ball; the pitch didn't have much and Kolkata weren't going to provide it. Apart from Lou Vincent's meaty blows - which mostly came off Jaidev Unadkat's helpful medium pace - Auckland were stifled by Kolkata's army of two contrasting left-arm spinners, an offspinner and a bowler who deals in slower ones and wobbly cutters.

At one stage it seemed that Vincent would force an early finish as he tore in to Unadkat, leaving Auckland with 80 to get off 90 deliveries. But the next over from Yusuf Pathan provided a peek in to what lay in store for Auckland. Vincent missed an attempted reverse sweep, top-edged a conventional sweep over short fine leg and barely escaped when he exposed his stumps to have a swish at a full delivery. The required rate was just above five an over, but the lack of pace was forcing Vincent to try and create opportunities to score.

Rajat Bhatia came on from the other end to cause more problems for Auckland. He usually arrives with a bagful of offcutters, legcutters and slower ones and it was no different today. If anything, he bowled with greater control.

Not that the pitch made Yusuf and Bhatia unplayable, but the flow reduced to a trickle soon after Vincent scored runs in a torrent. Auckland had managed only three off Bhatia's second over when Vincent ran himself out trying to create a run.

Auckland had staged a recovery from the first-ball setback but repeating the feat became increasingly improbable as batsman after batsman dug a hole for himself. Rob Quiney followed James Adams and three had gone for one run in four balls. The crowd roared along with Yusuf as he went on his knees, arms spread wide, to celebrate Quiney's fall.

Yusuf and Bhatia bowled out soon but Kolkata had reinforcements ready. Iqbal Abdulla and Shakib Al Hasan came on to bowl four overs that cost 18, 14 of them in hard-earned singles.

Still, getting nine an over to win in the last three is something that is seen quite often in Twenty20s. But rarely when two of those overs are bowled by Brett Lee. Auckland had been hemmed in by the lack of pace all along. Now with the pressure mounting, they were battered with Lee's speed and complete control. Missile after missile crashed in to the blockhole to be met by inadequate inside-edges. Auckland were only one big hit away from victory in the last over but it never looked like coming. They had hoped to ride on the center of pace; they were done in by its left and right.

Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo