India booked its place in the final of the Compaq Cup tri-series with a six-wicket win over New Zealand at the Premadasa Stadium on Friday.
The victory was set up by disciplined bowling on cracked, dusty surface. After dismissing New Zealand for 155, India survived a couple of anxious moments before sealing a match that, at times, was most intriguing.
In India’s chase, Dinesh Karthik was unfortunate to be judged leg-before, for the delivery appeared headed down leg. But his exit set the stage for a fascinating contest. For 18 compelling deliveries, Shane Bond and Rahul Dravid, making his one-day return, did battle.
Bond asked discomfiting questions, denying the batsman a run in 17 balls. Dravid was equal to the task of surviving. He swayed away from the bouncer, rose on his toes to square-drive, and pressed forward to defend. Bond then coaxed a false stroke with the 18th, a slower ball; Dravid shaved it to fine-leg for four off the inside edge.
Sachin Tendulkar’s imperious touch allowed Dravid time to settle. The master was in his element, watchful against the moving ball when he started, but punishing whenever the opportunity arose. Anything on his knee was worked decisively to leg; both the short-arm and the swivel pull were on display; width was put away — either a flashing cut or a measured push-drive did his bidding.
Dravid fell leg-before to Jacob Oram, missing a full delivery after shuffling across to flick it. He had fulfilled a part of his role, however, keeping India’s younger batsmen from the new ball, which, for some reason, moves under lights.
Tendulkar, after being bothered slightly by Daniel Vettori’s skidding under-cut deliveries, chipped a catch to short cover, surprising everyone.
Vettori then curled one away from Yuvraj in the air, slowing its flight to find the top edge of the attempted sweep.
At 84 for four, India, while not in the thorns, wasn’t as comfortably placed as it might have liked.
The track wasn’t the easiest to play oneself in on, but Suresh Raina’s confidence and certainty of touch settled the contest. He slog-swept sixes and walked into cover-drives. M.S. Dhoni batted with great care at the other end to see India home.
Earlier, Vettori elected to bat, saying he hoped his side would bat like Sri Lanka had in the first ODI. The New Zealand captain was referring no doubt to Thilan Samaraweera and Angelo Mathew’s rearguard action. His mates, however, appeared to misunderstand. They reprised, in unerring detail, Sri Lanka’s top-order collapse.
Jesse Ryder, early in his innings, is vulnerable to the ball angled in from left-arm over. Having situated his stance on middle and off, he tends to play across his front pad. Ashish Nehra won a leg-before decision with one such delivery.
Nehra’s 100th wicket
Nehra had his 100th ODI wicket soon after. Brendon McCullum had looked fidgety, clearly uncomfortable with the slowness of the track. Nehra pinned him in front of his stumps with a delivery that pitched on leg and appeared set to hit off.
R.P. Singh conquered Taylor with a combination of line, length, and angle: each contributed its part, the line forcing the batsman to play, the length having him on the move, the angle across gaining the edge to the wicketkeeper.
Martin Guptill showed promise. He once held his shape to time R.P. Singh past short mid-wicket with a defensive stroke, no more. Another time he crisply pulled Nehra in front of square. But Guptill followed a Yuvraj delivery that straightened from left-arm around, hands thrusting at the ball instead of withdrawing. Dravid took the sharp, low catch with remarkable ease.
Yuvraj then had Grant Elliott adjudged caught behind off a slider. Dhoni made good ground down the leg-side to glove the deflection. It wasn’t clear, however, if the deflection was off bat or pad.
From the other end, Harbhajan Singh was getting his deliveries to turn and bounce. The off-spinner looked threatening, operating for a while with a slip and short-leg. But the field opened, allowing Oram and Neil Broom to knock it around.
Ishant did splendidly to dismiss Oram. Having drawn an uppish drive with a slower ball, he bent low in his follow through to catch it.
Broom, after playing sensibly, hit a long-hop from Yuvraj to short mid-wicket. Vettori batted stubbornly before being bowled by Ishant.
India did many things well. Ground fielding wasn’t one of them. The outfielders rarely took the shortest path to the ball.
The throwing, often off-balance, seldom threatened batsmen intent on converting ones into twos. India must work on this facet during Saturday’s game against Sri Lanka, a precursor to Monday’s final.
New Zealand: B. McCullum lbw b Nehra 3 (9b), J. Ryder lbw b Nehra 0 (2b), M. Guptill c Dravid b Yuvraj 22 (42b, 3x4), R. Taylor c Dhoni b R.P. Singh 11 (15b, 2x4), G. Elliott c Dhoni b Yuvraj 22 (39b), J. Oram c & b Ishant 24 (45b, 1x4), N. Broom c Raina b Yuvraj 21 (28b), D. Vettori b Ishant 25 (36b, 1x4), K. Mills b R.P. Singh 6 (20b), I. Butler c Harbhajan b Nehra 6 (31b), S. Bond (not out) 10 (12b, 1x4); Extras: (lb-4, w-1) 5; Total: (in 46.3 overs) 155.
Fall of wickets: 1-1 (Ryder), 2-4 (McCullum), 3-19 (Taylor), 4-51 (Guptill), 5-66 (Elliott), 6-101 (Oram), 7-116 (Broom), 8-134 (Mills), 9-142 (Vettori).
Power Plays: One (overs 1 to 10): 30/3; Bowling (11-15) 21/1; Batting (46-46.3): 4/1.
India bowling: Nehra 8.3-0-24-3, R.P. Singh 8-2-22-2, Ishant 10-2-26-2, Yuvraj 10-0-31-3, Harbhajan 8-0-39-0, Raina 1-0-4-0, Yusuf 1-0-5-0.
India: D. Karthik lbw b Mills 4 (11b), S. Tendulkar c Guptill b Vettori 46 (55b, 6x4), R. Dravid lbw b Oram 14 (45b, 1x4), Yuvraj c Guptill b Vettori 8 (13b, 2x4), M.S. Dhoni (not out) 35 (65b, 4x4), S. Raina (not out) 45 (54b, 3x4, 2x6), Extras (lb-3, w-1) 4; Total (for four wickets in 40.3 overs) 156.
Fall of wickets: 1-7 (Karthik), 2-67 (Dravid), 3-71 (Tendulkar), 4-84 (Yuvraj).
Power Plays: One (overs 1 to 10): 34/1; Bowling (11-15): 23/0.
New Zealand bowling: Mills 5.3-1-25-1, Bond 10-3-30-0, Butler 4-0-25-0, Vettori 10-0-33-2, Oram 7-1-19-1, Elliott 2-0-9-0, Guptill 2-0-12-0.