Cricket: NZ pumped up after strangling Indians

By Dylan Cleaver

If this was racing, there would be an army of vets swabbing horses after India's thoroughbred batting line-up was made to look like a bunch of badly bred fillies in a maiden race at Otaki.

From the dizzying heights of 392-4 at Christchurch and 201-0 from 23.3 overs in Hamilton, India folded meekly for 149 in the garden of Eden.

In a match delayed by 90 minutes and reduced to 43 overs because of the inevitable rain, the Indians confirmed suspicions they're still not that keen when the ball nips around.

It helped, too, that Daniel Vettori found bowling partnerships that could strangle the strokemakers.

Kyle Mills set the tone early and despite Iain O'Brien's miserable series looking set to continue, he came back strongly and picked up a couple of cheap wickets at the death.

Even though he was expensive at the top - his fourth over went for 19 runs and finished with a dropped catch - his late swing meant the batsmen were slashing hard at him as much in desperation as anything.

MS Dhoni won the toss and batted, clearly unaware that when it is damp in Auckland it swings. Or perhaps he knew but did not care.

There has been plenty of debate as to whether the three test groundsmen should leave a little hair on the pitches but it might be academic: New Zealand's best hope might come when the atmospheric conditions, rather than pitch surfaces, are in their favour.

Vettori owed his biggest debt last night to a couple of bit-part bowlers. The pity for him now is that Jacob Oram (2-22 off 9) is not in the first test team. Jesse Ryder (3-29) is but will surely be expected to feature more with bat in hand than ball.

He certainly did last night.

Ryder blasted 63 off just 48 balls, in the process engaging in a running battle with India's tyro Ishant Sharma. Ironically, the moment they made peace with a handshake Sharma got his man, played on with the total at 93.

Martin Guptill, set to make his five-day debut in Hamilton on Wednesday, carried on the chase with vigour, bringing up his fourth ODI score of 50 or more in just his 11th innings.

He finished the game with a six-four combination off the unfortunate Sharma and New Zealand had won with close to 20 overs remaining.

Ross Taylor regained a bit of touch too, with a sparkling cameo.

This match will have given New Zealand renewed confidence after the battering they have taken at the hands of India's batsmen, particularly Virender Sehwag. It must be noted, however, that Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravdi and VVS Laxman will come in to complement Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Dhoni.

India could never be accused of trying too hard yesterday either. Once Sehwag departed for a typically brutal 40 (27 balls), the batsmen committed collective hari kari.

Rohit Sharma ended unbeaten on 43 but played his part in the lunacy, sending Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan back to the pavilion with some ordinary galloping between the wickets.

One of the more curious elements to the match was the fact the home side fielded poorly. Taylor shelled Sehwag at first slip and Brendon McCullum muffed a chance at point.

Neither chance cost much but it could have been worse had the returning Scott Styris not pulled in a great catch from a Suresh Raina skier after an inital communications error with Vettori.

But in the end this was New Zealand's day, for the first time in an ODI since ... New Zealand's day, February 6, when Vettori's side was too good for Australia at the MCG.

Since then they have suffered losses to Australia in Sydney and Adelaide, a no result in Brisbane, and the indignities of this series, with yesterday and a rain-wrecked, get-out-of-jail-free in Wellington the only respite.

"India thoroughly outplayed us in the series but we're glad to come here tonight and get one back," Vettori said.

"We're looking forward to the test series. It's going to be a great, competitive one and a three-test series is something the New Zealand team has been looking forward to for a while."

Grant Elliott has been signed by Surrey as their overseas player for the first half of the 2009 season.

Elliott, who turns 30 next week, spent last summer playing club cricket for a local Surrey club, Weybridge.

"The club has a great history and after hearing of some of the changes there over the winter, it looks as though it will be an exciting time to be involved. I'm really looking forward to meeting the guys and getting stuck in."

SCOREBOARD

INDIA
Gambhir c McGlashan b Mills 5
Sehwag c McCullum b Oram 40
Raina c Styris b Oram 8
Sharma not out 43
Y Singh c McGlashan b Ryder 11
Dhoni b Ryder 9
Pathan b Ryder 0
H Singh run out 1
Khan run out 5
Kumar c McGlashan b O'Brien 6
Sharma c Taylor b O'Brien 3

Extras (9b, 9w) 18

TOTAL (all out, 36.3 overs)149

FOWs: 30, 65, 69, 88, 110, 111, 116, 131, 143, 149.

Bowling: Mills 7-0-27-1 (1w), O'Brien 7.3-0-43-2 (6w), Oram 9-0-22-2 (1w), Ryder 9-0-29-3 (1w), Vettori 4-0-19-0.

NEW ZEALAND

Ryder b Sharma 63
McCullum b Kumar 2
Guptill not out 57
Taylor not out 28

Extras (1w) 1

TOTAL (for 2 wickets, 23.2 overs)151

FOWs: 9, 93.

Bowling: Kumar 4-0-22-1, Khan 8-1-51-0 (1w), Sharma 7.2-1-63-1, H Singh 4-0-15-0.

Umpires: Rudi Koertzen (South Africa), Gary Baxter (New Zealand).

New Zealand win by eight wickets.

India win series 3-1.


- Herald on Sunday

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