December 2, 2000

Hemang Badani authors morale boosting victory

A brilliant opening partnership, a middle order collapse and a fine half century at the death by Hemang Badani summarised India's second straight win over Zimbabwe at the Barabati Stadium on Saturday. India had a morale boosting rather than a convincing win in the first match of the series considering the fact that they suffered a ignominious defeat at the hands of Sri Lanka in the Tri nation Series in Sharjah. If it was Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly who laid the foundation for the innings, it was Badani who brought India back into the game. Of utmost important was the 60-run sixth wicket stand that he shared with Vijay Dahiya that brought India back from the gallows.

Set to score 254 for a win, Tendulkar and Ganguly, realising the need for a positive start, forged together a 102-run stand. The most striking aspect of the partnership was that both the batsmen never initiated a savage assault but preferred to belt the loose balls. Tendulkar especially looked in ominous form and executed some gorgeous drives of Olonga and Streak. Soon after the drinks break, Viljoen was introduced into the attack and Tendulkar took him on with a particular liking for the sweep. In Viljoen's second over he brought up the 100 on the board by pulling the left arm spinner with disdain.

But Viljoen had the last laugh when he had Tendulkar caught by Streak off the very next ball when the batsman tried to step out and hit him over the infield. Tendulkar faced 49 balls for his 44 during which he found the boundary ropes seven times. This brought in Rahul Dravid who has been in ominous form with the bat throughout the just concluded Test series.

Ganguly in the meantime tried to force the pace needlessly. Stepping out to Viljoen he got the leading edge and Campbell completed the formalities. Ganguly faced 80 balls for his 44, Yuvraj who came in next signalled his intentions with a square drive of Viljoen and then a cover drive of Murphy. But no sooner than he had come in, he departed falling leg before to Murphy. The Indian batting was in further disarray when Dravid (9) drove the ball to cover and took off for a single. He found himself hopelessly stranded at the middle of the pitch when Grant Flower threw the ball into the wicket keeper's hands and the latter did the rest.

Debutant Sodhi (8) could do nothing much and his innings culminated in a needless run out. India were staring down the barrel at 144 for 5, when Dahiya walked into bat. He and Badani took their time to settle down. Badani then started to play his strokes and got a much needed boundary off Olonga when he glided the bowler to third man in the 32nd over. The 35th over saw Friend coming back into the attack and Dahiya promptly slashed him behind point.

The two put on an invaluable 60 runs which went a long way in winning the day for the Indians. Entering the final stretch, India still needed 54 for a win. But the last ball of the 41st over witnessed the departure of Dahiya, rather tamely considering the value of the innings that he played. Trying to drive past the bowler, Dahiya only managed to give a return catch to Murphy. Dahiya's 35 was made at a run a ball rate.

The man who replaced him, Joshi lasted precisely four minutes and of the first ball that he faced, fell leg before to Heath Streak. The left handed Badani however continued to bat with confidence and he sent one from Murphy over the mid wicket fence. Agarkar who joined him was not far behind and lifted Flower over the long on fence for a six. With each run being valuable, both the batsmen ran with the hearts in their mouths. The two then put their heads down to deny an improbable win for the visitors. Finally, Badani brought up the win with a authoritative straight drive past Streak in the 47th over and with 10 balls to spare. Deservedly he was adjudged man of the match.

In the morning, the Zimbabwean captain Heath Streak found it better to set a target than to chase one and decided to send in his trusted openers. It was the former Zimbabwean captain Alister Campbell who gave the needed prop for the innings after the early loss of his partner Douglas Marillier (8). In the company of Stuart Carlisle (91 not out) he forged a 114-run partnership off 139 balls. The southpaw though had a reprieve when Agarkar was introduced into the attack. Off the third ball of his first spell, Agarkar managed to get the edge of Campbell's bat but the ball went past the keeper and Ganguly at first slip.

The two were severe on the bowlers especially Agarkar, who went for 32 runs during his first spell. The foundation was well and truly laid for a huge total. It was the introduction of debutant RS Sodhi who operated in tandem with Sunil Joshi that helped India stem the tide during the middle overs. But disaster struck Zimbabwe as Campbell mistimed a drive into the waiting hands of Badani at mid-off off Agarkar in his second spell. Campbell had faced 98 balls for his 68 while finding the signboards seven times.

Carlisle who carried on after losing Campbell was unlucky that he kept losing his partners at regular intervals, especially in the end overs. With the score at 187 at the start of the 40th over and with Carlisle still around the Zimbabweans were looking at a score beyond 280 or thereabouts. But none of his partners responded and at the end, Carlisle was left stranded at 91 which included six boundary hits.