Shane Bond blazed through India's top order and later prised open a threatening partnership between Jai P Yadav and Irfan Pathan to take New Zealand to victory by 51 runs in the second match of the Videocon Cup in Bulawayo. The pair had put on 118 after Bond's initial spell left India at 44 for 8 and, just as visions of an improbable victory arose, he returned to dash Indian hopes conclusively, ending with 6 for 19.
In seven opening overs of super mayhem, Bond took 5 for 13, and demonstrated that for all the supersubs, powerplays and other hyperbolic terms added to rejuvenate the game, the sport - like other sports - is sustained by drama involving the participants; it should make for a good story. The first over was a tale by itself. Sourav Ganguly opened, and Bond had the new ball. The first ball, slanted across at great pace, looped up off a protective prod and fell between the two. The next, pitched short outside leg, climbed past Ganguly's chest above off, barely giving him time to register the ball. The third, a similar delivery but pushed further up, was fended without conviction. The fourth, again short and cutting across, carried the threat of injury but Ganguly evaded it reflexively. Cricket at this pace had become all about adrenaline, bravery and instinct by the batsman. And one delivery after another, Bond was dissecting the batsman's tools, laying him bare. Yet only four balls had gone by. The fifth was a repeat of the fourth. Even Bond's run-up was intimidating now. The force with which he delivered the last ball was like a farewell explosion, aimed at the head, the edge, the batsman's self-respect. Somehow Ganguly survived. His weaknesses were well-known; Bond hit all the right pressure points.
The next over Bond picked him off with a short ball down leg which was gloved to the wicketkeeper. The next ball Venugopal Rao, the supersub, was late on a super-quick inswinging yorker that slammed into the stumps. Rahul Dravid then tried cutting a short incoming delivery and chopped it onto his stumps. Mohammad Kaif cut one as well, and it carried to the fielder at third man. Then Virender Sehwag, who had begun his innings with a pulled four, slashed one to point and found a sprawling Hamish Marshall in the way.
For a while, when Yadav and Pathan batted, Bond's effort could have been in danger. No other bowler appeared threatening; Andre Adam's wickets came due to the pressure Bond applied as batsmen looked to lash out at the other end. Once Bond went off, Yadav and Pathan set about rebuilding and drawing India closer to 216. They crossed their fifties quickly, enjoying fair luck, but also striking calculated fours. Yadav swept Vettori powerfully and delicately, and swung him over midwicket for six, while Pathan preferred the lofts down the ground for his boundaries. On 50 he departed, flaying at a quick delivery from Bond that caught the edge and traveled to the keeper. That was more or less it for India. Three balls later, Yadav mis-hit one to mid-off to end it all.
You wouldn't have known it, but India started the day on top. Ashish Nehra stuck to a line outside off for the left-handers and slanted it across for the others. He curved the ball late and experimented with his length without offering room, and this had the effect of rooting the batsmen to the crease. Stephen Fleming nicked one. Nathan Astle, paralysed, was trapped lbw. Pathan trapped Lou Vincent in front and did Marshall and Scott Styris in as well. At 36 for 5, New Zealand were a few wickets away from a low total.
But Agarkar was brought in and he provided width at a friendly pace. In three overs to Craig McMillan and Styris he conceded 17 runs and was taken off. The morning's pressure slowly dissipated and just as gradually, the batsmen found their feet. Oram swung Harbhajan for large sixes over long-on and mid-off. McMillan took few risks after surviving an lbw shout on zero and then powerfully smote Yadav over long-on for six. After they parted Brendon McCullum and Cairns accelerated, combining deft touch with powerful blows over cover. But just as he got started, Cairns fell, lightly swinging a Yadav ball to Harbhajan at short fine-leg. However, McCullum went on, twice hitting Nehra through the off-side for fours in an over and taking two off Agarkar as well, before falling last man, to Agarkar, with seven overs remaining.
India have been undone by quick bowlers before, but rarely have they been unable to place bat on ball this way. It was utterly demoralizing and, like Miandad's last-ball six, could have lasting effects on a line-up unsure of itself.