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September 16, 2007
Orthodox and effective
India had just been buoyed with the early wicket of Lou Vincent, but Brendon McCullum pushed them right back with three outstanding shots in the very next over, from Sreesanth. The first one was a classical straight drive, with the bat making a clean, crisp sound as it hit the ball. Next was a mere push to the covers, but with such precise timing and placement that the ball sped to the boundary. The next one was full and slightly wide, and this time McCullum creamed it between cover and mid-off. Three balls, three glorious orthodox shots, 12 runs on the board. Who said Twenty20 cricket was only about slogging?
You know the India are really getting into stride when direct hits earn them wickets. They had missed a couple of opportunities earlier in New Zealand's innings, but Yuvraj Singh got it just right when he charged in from midwicket, swooped down on the ball, and picked it up and threw down the non-striker's stumps in one clean motion. Scott Styris was on his way, and the huge Indian contingent in the stands had another reason to celebrate.
McMillan the mauler
After 15 overs, New Zealand badly needed someone to take charge of an innings that was going nowhere, and Craig McMillan was the man for the moment. He first turned his attention on Yuvraj, smashing a six and a four, before turning his attention on Sreesanth: a slower ball was clubbed straight over the bowler's head for a 94-metre six, and in the next ball, with Sreesanth bowling from round the wicket, McMillan got his left leg out of the way and sent the ball soaring high over midwicket. A snarl, a pumped fist, and a roar followed.
Knowing that the batsmen would be dashing for a run even if they missed the ball in the last over, Mahendra Singh Dhoni cleverly had the big wicketkeeping gloves off from his right hand even as the bowler was delivering the ball. When Mark Gillespie missed and McMillan dashed off towards the striker's end, Dhoni was ready, without his glove, and his throw at the stumps was accurate. He repeated the act off the next ball and managed to win a run-out at the non-striker's end.
After going for just four in his first over, things fell apart again for Shane Bond, who had leaked 45 in four overs against Sri Lanka on Saturday. Gautam Gambhir started it off with an outstanding stroke, swinging a good-length delivery high over midwicket for six. Two lovely cover-drives and a slashed four followed in the same over, which cost New Zealand 18 and put India on track.
With Irfan Pathan looking for quick runs, Daniel Vettori knew exactly what would do the trick: varying his pace quite magnificently, Vettori slipped in the quick arm ball which completely befuddled Pathan, who backed away but was far too late on his stroke. The off stump knocked back and the was game almost in the bag for New Zealand.