Cricket: Indians fall to McCullum's blazing bat

By David Leggat

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On a night when a record number of sixes were struck, New Zealand delivered a strong early statement against India, taking first dibs against the world Twenty20 champions.

Chasing India's 162 for eight, Jacob Oram belted the 24th and final six of the night over extra cover to push New Zealand to 166 for three and a seven-wicket win with seven balls to spare.

It was a well-judged chase, and a vast improvement on the botched job at Sydney 10 days ago when pursuing 11 fewer runs.

Brendon McCullum and Oram shared an unbroken 60-run stand in 33 balls to give New Zealand a two-from-two Twenty20 record against India.

The previous biggest six-bag was between Australia and India at Durban in 2007, when they combined for 20.

The pocket-sized boundaries certainly helped, although the power and cleanness of the hitting would have done the job on most occasions on bigger outfields.

"I really couldn't have too many complaints," New Zealand captain Dan Vettori said last night.

His bowlers stuck at their job after an early Indian onslaught and McCullum's half century, with backup contributions from Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor and Oram, guided New Zealand home in some style.

That Twenty20 is cricket's boozy all-nighter compared with test cricket's dinner party was evidenced by the black mini-skirted, fishnet-clad dancers who pranced about between overs at each end of the ground, bringing the Gothic hooker look to the night.

As a means of announcing himself to New Zealand, Virendar Sehwag could scarcely have done any better than last night's cameo, 26 off 10 balls.

The crowd, which reached 16,225, was still pouring through the gates as the first three balls he faced in the opening over by Tim Southee sailed into the stands.

Admittedly he was helped by the ludicrously short boundary on the eastern side of the ground, but Sehwag still made it look a practice exercise. His innings equated to a teaser for what might lie ahead.

Sehwag has a couple of sobriquets. The Butcher of Najafgarh, for the rural suburb on the outskirts of Delhi from which he hails, is one. Another is the Sultan of Multan - the Pakistan city best known as home to world cricket's biggest eater, Inzamam-ul-Haq - where Sehwag flogged one of his two test triple centuries.

He recently described leaving balls outside his off stump as "a waste of time". More power to this 30-year-old's arms.

By the time Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh came together at 101 for seven, India has discovered the perils of over-ambition on a holding drop-in pitch which also produced uneven bounce.

Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was the unluckiest, being bowled by a scuttler from Ian Butler.

Several others slogged out, including Yusuf Pathan, who, having put offspinner Nathan McCullum's first three balls into the crowd, was out attempting a fourth.

Oram caught the ball just inside the boundary at long on, tossed it up as he stepped over the line, then regathered as he got back in the field.

Australian Adam Voges did it to McCullum in Sydney 10 days ago. These catches are now getting hum-drum.

Lefthander Raina cut loose late on to finish on 61 off 43 balls, and with Harbhajan put on 61 in 39 balls to get some ballast into India's innings, which contained 13 of the 24 sixes.

New Zealand seamer Kyle Mills will play for the New Zealand Masters team against Australian Masters in the curtainraiser to tomorrow night's Twenty20 in Wellington as he continues his return to full fitness after his achilles injury.

G Gambhir b O'Brien6
V Sehwag b O'Brien26
S Raina not out61
R Sharma c B McCullum b Butler7
Y Singh lbw b Vettori 1
MS Dhoni b Butler2
Y Pathan c Oram b N McCullum20
I Pathan c N McCullum b Ryder12
H Singh b Southee 21
Extras (3lb 3w)6
Total (for 8 wkts, 20 overs)162
Fall: 25, 32, 54, 56, 61, 82, 101, 162
Bowling: T Southee 4-0-42-1, I O'Brien 4-0-36-2, I Butler 4-0-29-2 (1w), D Vettori 4-0-18-1 (2w), N McCullum 2-0-27-1, J Ryder 2-0-7-1

NEW ZEALAND (target 163)
J Ryder lbw b I Sharma1
B McCullum not out56
M Guptill lbw b H Singh 41
R Taylor b Khan31
J Oram not out 29
Extras (5w 3nb) 8
Total (for 3 wkts, 18.5 overs)166
Fall: 2, 56, 106
Bowling: Z Khan 4-0-20-1 (1w), I Sharma 4-0-35-1 (3nb), I Pathan 3-0-38-0, H Singh 4-0-19-1, Y Pathan 2.5-0-37-0 (1w), Y Singh 1-0-17-0 (1w)

Result: New Zealand win by 7 wickets

- NZ Herald

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