India 223 (Sehwag 110, Southee 4-49, McCullum 3-35) beat New Zealand 118 (Mills 52, Praveen 3-34, Patel 3-21) by 105 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
A combination of belligerent hitting by Virender Sehwag and potent seam bowling helped India storm into the final of the tri-series against Sri Lanka with a comprehensive thrashing of New Zealand in the last league game. On a day when a majority of the specialist batsmen on both sides batted with two left feet in bowler-friendly conditions, Sehwag found a way to carve out an aggressive century, scoring more than what all 11 New Zealanders managed between them. The target of 224 was soon out of New Zealand's reach after their top order crumbled against a four-pronged seam attack, a bowling combination you wouldn't associate with Indian sides, especially in the subcontinent.
By the end of the night, you could imagine batsmen queuing up outside Sehwag's door for the inside story on how he managed to dominate everything thrown at him. It was as though he was batting on another surface. Sehwag was unfazed by the early movement and nip off the wicket, which made the seamers potent. He played in a style known only to him and, with the final in three days' time, his innings today will undoubtedly be analysed in detail.
MS Dhoni took the gamble of batting on a fresh pitch, despite India having collapsed for 103 after batting first in their previous match against Sri Lanka. New Zealand's seamers nipped out four wickets by the end of the 13th over with a combination of swing, cut and bounce, which strikes took the sheen off an entertaining start from Sehwag.
Not known for exaggerated foot movements, Sehwag used the crease to loft the seamers over the off side. He barely moved across the stumps but such was his confidence that he stretched to scoop and slash powerfully over backward point. He backed away and slapped the slower bowlers past the infield as well. A more conventional punch through cover brought up his 1000th ODI four, one that was part of a sequence of three consecutive fours off Tim Southee.
India were lucky to have Dhoni at the other end, for he rotated the strike and built a solid partnership with Sehwag. Their stand produced 107, but India needed more from their last capable pair, having only Ravindra Jadeja, who is still trying to find his feet in ODIs, and a long tail to follow. Sehwag, however, didn't alter his approach. He continued to charge the spinners, lifting Kane Williamson inside out over extra cover for boundaries, and also cleverly picked the gaps at fine leg off the seamers. He played an upper cut over the vacant slip cordon shortly after getting to his century, but the fun ended for India when Sehwag found deep midwicket when on 110. His dismissal was against the run of play.
Dhoni, who had batted carefully, had to try to reclaim the advantage for India, but New Zealand took control. Having grafted to 38 off 75 balls, Dhoni edged a Nathan McCullum delivery while trying to drive. The dismissals of Sehwag and Dhoni in quick succession meant a premature end to the innings was inevitable. Soon after New Zealand picked up the final wicket, though, their control over the game came to a grinding halt.
They had no-one with Sehwag's calibre and temperament to take the initiative, irrespective of the damage being done at the other end. They were exposed against the moving ball and even seasoned performers struggled. Praveen Kumar started the slide in conditions tailored to his variety of bowling, trapping Martin Guptill leg before in first over.
There was no respite from the other end as Ashish Nehra, with his extra pace when compared to Praveen, got the ball to nip in sharply to the right-handers, slicing them in half. A lot depended on the experienced Ross Taylor, but he was just as circumspect as the rest. He expected the ball to move in, but it went the other way and took a thick outside edge, giving Praveen his second wicket.
New Zealand's chase was irreparably damaged when their senior-most batsman, Scott Styris, chopped one on to his stumps without moving his feet. Grant Elliott knew that the best way to counter the swing was to cover the line and smother the movement. He regularly shuffled across the stumps, committing to the movement even before delivery, but his method didn't yield runs as almost every defensive push found fielders. Williamson, who finally scored an international run in his third innings, was dismissed by an Ishant Sharma delivery which cut in and took the edge onto the stumps. Munaf, who was miserly to begin with, bagged two lbws with with his probing line.
Kyle Mills' blitz only succeeded in saving New Zealand the embarrassment of being bowled out for less than 100.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo