December 29, 2002

New Zealand's match plan superior in 35-run win over India

Virender Sehwag: lacked support from team-mates to make century count
New Zealand utilised an adherence to basic disciplines to severely punish an Indian team that forget theirs to go 2-0 up with a 35-run win in the National Bank Series match at Napier today.

India were all out in the 44th over, for 219, chasing New Zealand's total of 254/9.

Things couldn't have gone much better for New Zealand, nor much worse for India.

New Zealand won without having to use their fast bowler Shane Bond. All of their batsmen got time in the middle, although some of them didn't use it as well as they might have in the perfect conditions for a One-Day International, their bowlers got a workout and they demonstrated yet again the virtues of being competitive in the field throughout their bowling effort.

India, by comparison, produced a fielding so performance so poor that it is difficult to remember anything in recent history in this country that could compare. They also bowled their overs so slowly they were docked two overs in their chase, as well as losing 10% of their match fees.

They did have the satisfaction of producing one batting performance of note.

The pocket-sized Indian battleship, Virender Sehwag called into Napier last evening and gave a demonstration of the powerhouse qualities to his batting that have been unseen until this match on the tour of New Zealand. He was eventually run out for 108 when he lost a contest with Daryl Tuffey who sprinted through on his run through, dived and hit the wicket with his underarm lob.

Nicknamed "Mini-Me", a play on the Austin Powers character because of his likeness to Sachin Tendulkar, by the New Zealanders after they struck him at the start of his international career in Sri Lanka last year, Sehwag gave a great demonstration of his abilities in a hard-hitting display which resulted in his fourth ODI century, scored off 111 balls and which included eight fours and two sixes.

It was an innings in which he refused to be dictated to by circumstances. He lost his captain Sourav Ganguly in the first over and then other batsmen at regular intervals. It was batting with a like-minded spirit in Mohammad Kaif that he was his most dangerous, but fortunately for New Zealand, Tuffey caught the edge of Kaif's bat when he had taken only 24 runs out of the home attack.

Then after Sanjay Bangar took advantage of a gap at first slip to take four runs off a ball from Jacob Oram, he tried to repeat the shot next ball, but he wasn't quite as accurate in his placement and wicket-keeper Brendon McCullum took the edge to leave India struggling at 187 for six wickets and with the required run rate back up to 6.35.

New Zealand's innings was dominated by the 136-run stand between Nathan Astle and Mathew Sinclair. Apart from the fact that it offered runs of a quality, and a quantity, not seen this summer, it was just the sort of stand needed to bolster the New Zealanders after the frustrations that have visited both sides during the series.

Astle was not quite his commanding self, but there were signs enough to suggest the Indians are going to be on the receiving end of an Astle special before too much longer in the series.

There were not quite as many chances as he would have liked square of the wicket on the off side, although he did pierce the two gully field set for him with a lovely boundary all the way along the ground. But if unable to get as much away there as he wanted, he compensated for that with some lovely drives, none better than the lofted off drive for six runs from Bangar's bowling.

His 50, his 31st in ODIs, came up off 71 balls and he was out, attempting another big hit over the mid-wicket boundary which fell short of the intended target and into the hands of Zaheer Khan from Ganguly's bowling.

Sinclair weighed in with great support at the other end and hit the fourth ODI half century of his career while making 78. He had some hesitant moments while getting underway but started to hit the ball cleanly and his advance down the pitch to loft Harbhajan Singh for six runs over extra cover was clear evidence of his improving state of mind.

But with Craig McMillan having come and gone so quickly, Lou Vincent used the quick singles option to get his innings going and to keep the momentum rolling for the side. But in the process, Sinclair loosened up and tried an unnecessary reverse sweep which he hit directly into Rahul Dravid's gloves.

Having lost some key support, it was the opportunity for Sinclair to take New Zealand through to the 50-over mark, but his choice of shot that led to his dismissal was symptomatic of some bad decisions made right through the latter part of the innings which could be an important lesson in the overall context of the season.

Vincent's running was a revelation and a timely reminder that offensive running can be invaluable in breaking up the efforts of the fielding side.

The New Zealanders were a much more competitive unit in the field and their efforts were typified by McCullum with the gloves. He equalled the New Zealand record of five dismissals in an innings, set by Adam Parore against the West Indies at Goa in 1994/95.

McCullum made four catches and a stumping for his haul.

The bowlers were given a solid workout with Kyle Mills coming back from an early mauling to take three wickets while Tuffey completed another first over special and ended with two for 35.

All in all, the sort of performance which while satisfying for its execution, had enough in it to demand even more effort in the next match in Christchurch on New Year's Day.