Vettori stars in ten-run win
A masterclass of left-arm bowling from Daniel Vettori allowed New Zealand to soak up the pressure of a flying start by India to the run chase and script a fine 10-run win at the Wanderers. When Vettori brought himself into the attack in the seventh over, India were 76 for the loss of just Virender Sehwag and the game was theirs for the taking. Vettori varied his flight and pace cleverly to choke the run-flow, increase the pressure and eventually lure the batsmen to their demise.
A breezy 45 from Brendon McCullum had earlier laid the foundation for New Zealand before Craig McMillan and Jacob Oram effected some violent late-order hitting to take the total to a healthy 190 but it almost proved inadequate against the rampaging Indian openers.
It was akin to the Cricinfo Slogout game at its see-sawing best. The bat transformed into a joystick as Sehwag and Gambhir slashed with abandon, scythed through the line and lofted merrily.
After a quiet first over, Sehwag surged off the blocks in the second - from Mark Gillespie - with a lashing cover drive and an audacious six over long-on before flipping one past square leg. Gambhir joined in the fun with a swipe over deep midwicket, a slash over slips and a couple of crunchy cover drives as Bond went for 18 runs in the third over. Jeetan Patel was brought on as early as the fifth over but was ripped apart by Sehwag who carted four boundaries, with a six over cover being the highlight. The chase was truly on.
But a four later, Sehwag was back in the hutch, swatting a Oram full toss to mid-on and when Robin Uthappa was beaten by the dip from Vettori, New Zealand were back in the game. Vettori continued to vary his pace and soon deceived Gambhir into top-edging a sweep with a clever slow loopy delivery to push New Zealand ahead.
Then Yuvraj Singh fell, top-edging a sweep off Patel to leave India tottering at 116 for 4. Twelve runs later, an awful mix-up between Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Dinesh Karthik found Dhoni short of the crease and the cat was squarely among the pigeons.
Vettori prised two wickets in the 17th over to effectively seal the game. He had troubled Irfan Pathan with a series of arm-balls before finally getting through his defense. Four balls and a dropped catch later, he lured Karthik to hole out to deep square leg and New Zealand were almost home. There was to be no miracle from the tail and New Zealand ran away to a satisfying victory.
It was a cat-and-mouse game during the first half of the New Zealand innings. The momentum kept swinging from one side to the other with the batsmen counterattacking after a couple of good overs before the spinners started to apply the squeeze. Harbhajan Singh was the top performer for India, punctuating his offspinners with doosras and quicker ones and bamboozling the batsmen into suicidal strokes. But the batsmen had the last laugh, with Oram and McMillan wielding the long handle effectively.
Earlier, McCullum counterattacked after the fall of Lou Vincent's wicket, targeting Sreesanth with three gorgeous drives before square-driving and pulling RP Singh to the boundary. Dhoni responded by drafting in Ajit Agarkar and Irfan Pathan and the run-rate dipped a touch.
The introduction of Harbhajan Singh paid greater dividends as he tied up Peter Fulton with his offspinners before a front-of-hand faster one trapped him in front. McCullum, who was starved of the strike, perished off the second ball he faced from Harbhajan, slog-sweeping a floater to long-on. When Ross Taylor failed to connect with his favourite slog-sweep and Scott Styris was found short by a direct hit from Yuvraj, things looked bleak for New Zealand but they got out of the hole in style with another furious counterattack. This time, India had no answers.
In the 16th over Jacob Oram swung two towering sixes over long-on while Craig McMillan pinged the straight boundary and the long-leg boundary as Yuvraj was looted for 25 runs.
Three more sixes in the 18th over, off Sreesanth, saw New Zealand gallop away to a strong total. McMillan scythed one over long-off, swat-pulled the other over long-on before Oram sliced one over deep point. The carnage was truly on as Vettori pinched three more fours and McMillan slugged a six in the 19th over off Agarkar to push them to what proved a match-winning total.
Sriram Veera is an editorial assistant on Cricinfo