Asked to open the innings in the absence of batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar, 22-year-old Virender Shewag could not have chosen a better occasion to live up to his reputation as a hard-hitting batsman.

And when he delivered to his potential, the Delhi batsman did it in style, plundering boundaries at will and hammering the sixth fastest one-day century ever in one-day internationals.

After 14 matches and a dozen innings until today, there was just one 50 to his name and his highest score in the current series was 33. And India had conceded 264 to the New Zealanders in a tournament in which they struggled to chase any score beyond 200.

But under such tremendous pressure, Shewag chose to excel.

"I just played my natural game. I played my shots...it was certainly my best innings where I played positively," the shy all rounder, who was declared the man-of-the-match, said.

Shewag took the Kiwi attack by the scruff from the very beginning. His 50 came off 29 deliveries but fell short of the two fastest Indian half centuries, those of Ajit Agarkar and Kapil Dev.

The high point of his 69-ball century was four consecutive boundaries and a six in the 11th over by Darryl Tuffey. Shewag hit 19 boundaries and a six in all.

Undoubtedly, it was his knock which shaped India's seven-wicket victory against New Zealand and ensured it a place in the final against Sri Lanka.

Shewag's employees, Oil And Natural Gas Corporation Ltd, were prompt in announcing a cash incentive of Rs one lakh for his efforts.

The Indian skipper admitted it was one of the best one-day knocks knocks he had seen.

"It was unbelievable," gushed Ganguly. "He played a superb knock...It was a big target to chase but he made it look so easy. Also the later batsmen backed up well. I did not want to get out and leave the job to the younger lot but they did well to see us through. Rahul (Dravid) played a beauty as well. Badani too looked in good nick," Ganguly said.

"It was good to see the batsmen back in form before the final," he added.

The 29-year-old Indian captain said playing two important back to back matches had not been easy. "We were stiff in the morning...it's good we came out and played well."

The victory saw India in to the final, a day-night encounter to be played on August 5.

New Zealand skipper Stephen Fleming said "India took away the game from us in the first 15 overs," thanks to a "clean, match-winning performance from Virender Shewag".