MS Dhoni blamed India's defeat in their first warm-up game at Lord's on their performance at the death in the New Zealand innings, where 31 runs were conceded in the last two overs.
Ishant Sharma was India's stand-out performer with the ball, taking 4 for 25, and while the experiment of using him in the middle overs paid off, the tactic of holding back the length in the last few overs didn't. The penultimate over of the New Zealand innings, bowled by Irfan Pathan, was taken for 15, and RP Singh was clattered for two fours and a six by James Franklin in the final over as New Zealand put up a match-winning score.
"Instead of yorkers, we wanted to bowl back of the length deliveries in the final three overs," Dhoni was quoted as saying by PTI. "We have seen other teams do it regularly so we wanted to use this opportunity of warm-up game to try it out. Unfortunately, it didn't work today. If we have to go to the basics of bowling yorkers, we would do so.
"It's just not about doing well in the first few overs or in the end. It's critical that teams don't lose too many wickets between 6 and 10 overs. That's why somebody like Ishant can be critical in the middle overs. He could dry up the runs and batsmen could lose wickets in trying to go after him."
Ishant was Kolkata Knight Riders' highest wicket-taker in the IPL, finishing with 11 from as many games but his record in international Twenty20's has been indifferent - he averages 51 with just two wickets in four games. "I think it would give him great deal of confidence," Dhoni said of his four-wicket haul. "He is a bowler who should be bowling at the start and also in the end. In between he came and got us those crucial wickets."
Ravindra Jadeja and Suresh Raina had put India in sight of a comfortable win, taking them to 126 for 3 in the 15th over in pursuit of 170. But Raina's miscue off Jacob Oram triggered a slide as New Zealand's bowlers, particularly captain Daniel Vettori, who finished with 3 for 24, stymied the chase to help their team win by nine runs. It marked New Zealand's fourth win against India in the Twenty20 format, though the warm-up games are not considered official.
"Four defeats in four matches is a bit of concern," Dhoni said. But he was confident of his players' ability to combat Vettori despite the New Zealand captain's success against India. In fact, Vettori was largely responsible for India's only loss in the World Twenty20 in 2007, a tournament they eventually won. "In one of the overs he was also hit for 20 runs by Suresh Raina. So it's not as if he can't be attacked or 40-50 runs can't be taken off his bowling," he said.
Though Dhoni was upset with the slip-up, he said there were alternatives in place to rectify what went wrong. "Quite disappointed with the defeat but we have back-up plans and so I'm not really worried," he said. "Besides, we missed quite a few key players."
Yuvraj Singh was down with food poisoning and Virender Sehwag sat out due to a shoulder injury. However, both are expected to be fit for India's next warm-up tie against Pakistan on June 3. "A couple of guys had food poisoning but I'm sure everyone will be fine before our next warm-up game."
Daniel Vettori, meanwhile, attributed New Zealand's win to a team effort. "I think we managed our innings well," he said. "It was a very good performance. Rohit (Sharma) and (Suresh) Raina were destructive and to come back from there, I must say I'm reasonably happy."
The contest proved a high-scoring one, relative to some of the matches in the IPL in South Africa, and Dhoni felt the size of the ground could cater to similar games. "One side is always shorter and teams try to take advantage of it. If it's managed well, even a score of 80 runs from the final eight overs is possible," he said. "However, once the asking rate goes beyond nine and half, it becomes difficult."
Going by the trend set in the IPL, Dhoni felt spinners would again play a prominent role in this competition. "Most of the sides have quality spinners in their ranks as they understand slow bowlers have a huge role to play. Spinners, I am sure, will have a bigger impact in this tournament."