They said he couldn't perform in international cricket. They said he was good only for IPL and domestic cricket. He proved them wrong tonight. Yusuf Pathan engineered an improbable win for India with a violent hundred, his first in ODIs, and perhaps sealed a World Cup berth for himself. It looked grim for India when they were tottering at 188 for 5 in the 34th over, after the fall of Rohit Sharma, but Pathan pulled off a heist. One game doesn't guarantee a successful future of course, especially considering that this New Zealand attack wasn't potent enough to provide a stern test of his weakness against short balls, but Pathan left his past behind with a potentially career-changing innings on a drizzly Bangalore night. His century overshadowed a superbly-crafted 98 from James Franklin that had allowed New Zealand to reach a daunting total.
Pathan declared his intent with two brutal shots. The first came in the 37th over, when play resumed after a one-hour rain break that didn't reduce any overs and left India needing 113 runs from 14. Yusuf launched a Daniel Vettori delivery into screaming fans beyond long-on and clubbed a length delivery from Kyle Mills over the roof at cow corner. Those two imperious hits gave a feeling, then, that he could pull off a special win.
A couple of quiet overs followed but Pathan roused himself in a violent 43rd over: he smashed Mills for three fours - a lofted hit overs cover and two flicks past short fine-leg - before crashing a length delivery for six over midwicket. And when he brought up his maiden hundred with a pulled six, off Andy McKay in the next over, the game was all but over. He found support in Saurabh Tiwary, who intelligently rotated the strike, and the pair gave India a 4-0 lead in the series.
It was an incredible effort considering India had lagged behind for a major part of the chase. McKay's twin strikes to remove Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli in the 10th over and Nathan McCullum's double-strike to dismiss Yuvraj Singh and Parthiv Patel, who hit his maiden fifty, had pushed India on the back foot. And when Tim Southee had Rohit Sharma hitting straight to mid-off, New Zealand would have been thinking about the win, but Yusuf crushed their hopes with a blinder.
As good as their batting was in the end overs, their death bowling nearly lost India the game. Franklin's knock provided the perfect climax to New Zealand's spirited approach; the openers attacked to take them to 91 for 2 in the 14th over and the middle-order adapted to the fall of wickets - rebuilding at a slower pace before Franklin's final flourish.
Franklin looted 22 runs in the final over, bowled by Nehra, with some wickedly entertaining big hits: he smashed the second delivery to the straight boundary, the third over long-off, the fourth to midwicket, and the fifth to the wide long-off boundary. It was not, however, a knock of such fury and adrenalin from the start. He had built his innings with conventional shots, such as the one in 47th over, when he was batting with the tail and was under some pressure. He sashayed down the track to Yusuf Pathan, who had just picked up two wickets, and nonchalantly flicked him wide of the deep midwicket fielder. No manic rush or desperation, he simply carried on with his style, sweeping the spinners and flicking and square-driving the seamers to get to his fifty. Only in the final two overs did he explode. It seemed he had done enough to win the game for his team, especially after India's top-order had collapsed, but Yusuf seized the day.