McCullum fifty sets up NZ's win
New Zealand and India adopted different approaches to their innings and in the end it was the host's more measured and sensible method that prevailed over the visitors' manic thrash. India's innings fell away after a blazing start - Virender Sehwag hit his first three balls for sixes - and they needed Suresh Raina's half-century to lift them from 101 for 7. New Zealand, on the other hand, were guided by opener Brendon McCullum, who batted through the innings while his team-mates forced the pace. McCullum took charge during the final overs, reached his half-century and ensured New Zealand won with seven balls to spare.
The small size of the AMI Stadium with its tiny square boundaries proved a temptation few batsmen could resist. India bashed 13 sixes in their innings - one short of the record for Twenty20 internatonals - but in the end had to settle for a par score. They were caught in an adrenalin rush but the early slogging came with a heavy price and the responsibility on Raina increased with every wicket.
New Zealand gave a much better account of themselves during their chase. Their start was not as frenetic as the Indians' for the new-ball attack of Ishant Sharma and Zaheer Khan extracted movement under lights. Zaheer beat the outside edge on several occasions but New Zealand maintained their composure even after losing Jesse Ryder in the second over.
New Zealand had a stroke of luck when Martin Guptill padded up to a big inswinger from Ishant and was hit on the pad while moving across his stumps. The disbelief on the faces of the Indians was palpable as the umpire gave him not out. Guptill capitalised on the let-off and unfurled a series of exquisite pulls - his signature shot - off the fast bowlers.
His dismissal, trapped in front by Harbhajan Singh in the seventh over, slowed New Zealand down and they managed only 29 off the next five overs. However, they kept their cool and cashed in when another offspinner Yusuf Pathan was brought into the attack. Ross Taylor, a dangerous player on the leg side, got down on his knees and clubbed consecutive sixes off Yusuf before swatting him for four the next ball. That 18-run over brought equation down to 62 off 48 balls and left India desperate for a wicket.
Zaheer broke the 50-run stand in his second spell, bowling Taylor with a leg stump yorker. That brought Jacob Oram, returning after a long injury lay-off, and he quickly settled in. McCullum flirted with danger a few times, playing cheeky paddle scoops, not all of which came off. However, he was successful when he played more conventional cricket shots. He used his feet superbly against the spinners and brought up his fifty with a lofted straight six off Yusuf. Oram finished the game soon after, smashing Yusuf to the cover boundary.
Unlike New Zealand's, India's shot selection was questionable with the top four falling while playing across the line. Gambhir was the first to perish, losing his middle stump to Iain O'Brien who also flattened Sehwag's leg stump. Rohit Sharma stylishly clipped Ian Butler for a six over square leg but was dismissed trying a similar shot the next ball, getting a thick leading edge to Brendon McCullum. Yuvraj Singh too was trapped lbw to a quicker one from Daniel Vettori while moving across his stumps.
There was a second hat-trick of sixes in the Indian innings, this time by Yusuf Pathan. He got down on one knee and slogged Nathan McCullum's first three deliveries over long-on but was caught while going for the fourth. The ball travelled flatter towards Oram at long-on who took the catch, pedalled backwards, quickly lobbed the ball in the air before going over the rope and caught it once again after coming back into play. It was reminiscent of Adam Voges' catch at the same position in Sydney recently.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Irfan Pathan failed to support Raina and their dismissals left India struggling at 101 for 7. Raina was perhaps the only batsman who consistently succeeded in hitting on the leg side. He stayed balanced and clubbed full tosses and length deliveries from the seamers high over deep midwicket. He received late support from Harbhajan Singh, who hit consecutive fours off Southee in the final over. India did well to reach 162 but they needed more on such a small ground.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo