Cricket: Vettori's men saved by the rain

By David Leggat

The good news first: last night's rained-off ODI means India cannot win the series against New Zealand 5-0.

Okay, perhaps a shade unfair, but in what little took place at Westpac Stadium yesterday, India took the initiative as New Zealand's bowlers again failed to deliver.

The tourists will take a 1-0 lead to the third game in Christchurch tomorrow.

Having won the toss, India were well in charge when the misty rain, present since mid-afternoon, finally forced the end with the tourists 188 for four off 28.4 overs.

This was one of those God-awful days for cricket when a decent thunderstorm would have put the hardy stayers out of their misery. Instead the day lingered far beyond its useful life, like an on-off courtship.

As the players trooped on and off six times, abstract thoughts filled the mind.

Cricket fans are like no others. What were those people doing sitting in the gloom watching the rain sweep the ground wearing sunglasses? Eternal optimists for sure.

Out of seven ODIs this summer against the West Indies and India, only one has been unaffected by rain yet there have only been two no-results. That's meant plenty of thumbing through the Duckworth-Lewis handbook to come up with recalculations.

To stretch the point, there have been 13 international matches in New Zealand this season. Only four have been rain-free.

It's a depressing thought, given the final test against India will start as late as April 3.

Things began as depressingly for New Zealand on the field yesterday with new-ball men Kyle Mills and Iain O'Brien well short of what was required.

New Zealand's bowlers appeared unsure of themselves, Too often their lines were ordinary, "gimme" balls wide of off stump were given the treatment by Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar. Sehwag threw doubt in the bowlers' minds with some brilliant strokeplay.

To be fair, even good length balls disappeared, but New Zealand's bowlers again did not do themselves justice.

It was as if the footwork of the Indians, especially Tendulkar, had them trying to second guess the batsmen's movements. When that happens, they have problems.

Sehwag took 16 off Mills' third over, but might have been caught by a more agile fielder than O'Brien at fine-leg first ball. O'Brien was treated similarly. Jacob Oram needs more work at the bowling crease too.

Sehwag was troubled by a foot injury and called for a runner, not that you would have guessed he was in difficulties as he raced to 50 in 32 balls before departing unluckily given caught behind off Ian Butler.

Tendulkar hit one gorgeous drive through the covers for the shot of the day. Mills had dropped him on 22 above his head at mid on before the little champion pressed the pedal down to complete his 91st ODI 50.

The rest of the day was given over to short bouts of play, then lengthy delays.

Butler was better than his figures suggest because he stuck to a good, full length and varied his pace.

But New Zealand now have a problem. Their bowling collectively has been ordinary in back-to-back ODIs. Do they stick with the same group in Christchurch tomorrow?

The only option is Tim Southee and he's hardly likely to make a great difference.

Mills and Oram - 29 from four overs - need more bowling. Unfortunately, bowling to the likes of Sehwag and Tendulkar is not going to give them the unstressful workout they might fancy.

Wellington offspinner Jeetan Patel will travel to Christchurch today as cover for Dan Vettori, whose wife, Mary, has had minor complications over the impending birth of the couple's first child.

- NZ Herald

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