S. Ram Mahesh

New Zealand clinches the Twenty20 series 2-0

India’s innings fizzled like a damp firecracker

Harbhajan and Jadeja got India back into the match

Wellington: So comprehensively did New Zealand control the first three-fourths of the second Twenty20 International here at the Westpac Stadium that a rousing last-ball finish seemed well-nigh inconceivable.

But India — having been restricted to 149, its second successive batting failure — pulled it back through its spinners Harbhajan Singh and Ravindra Jadeja. Then, Irfan Pathan, who had been plundered for 25 in his first two overs by Brendon McCullum and Jesse Ryder, returned to redress matters.

Bowling the 18th over of the innings, the left-armer sunk a yorker through Ross Taylor’s stroke and consumed Jacob Oram with a wide, swinging ball that was nicked behind. From needing 28 off 18 balls with eight wickets in hand, New Zealand slipped to requiring 23 off 12 with six in hand.

Brendon McCullum, whose unbeaten half-century in the first Twenty20 International had seen New Zealand home, managed a vital boundary off the last ball of Yuvraj Singh’s over, the 19th of the innings. Three hours of struggle had reduced to this equation: 12 runs, 6 balls.

Although Nathan McCullum was involved in the mix, there was no doubt who the combatants were — Brendon McCullum and Irfan Pathan, the former seeking to further his legend, the latter in the quest for — need it be said? —redemption.

Drama

Thrice, Irfan Pathan stoppered the block-hole with yorkers. Needing nine off three balls, Brendon McCullum, who had taken stance a yard outside the crease, swung a low full-toss over mid-wicket for four. Next ball, he advanced down the track, scooped Pathan straight, and tied the scores. To add to the drama, play was held up because of crowd trouble.

The game, when it resumed, found every Indian fielder within the ring to stop the single. Brendon McCullum heaved at the next ball, flat-batting it, but not connecting as he would have hoped.

As the ball looped over mid-off (substitute Rohit Sharma, who found to his consternation that he had closed in too tight), the vacuum created by the intake of 21,537 mouthfuls of breath might have sucked in a small planet. It did nothing, however, to the ball in motion. Sharma flung himself, landing heavily on his chest. The ball eluded him.

The brothers McCullum embraced, their mates in the New Zealand dug-out followed suit, and so ended a match that had begun less tempestuously.

Asked to bat, India’s innings fizzled like a damp firecracker. Sure, there was the odd crackle, the isolated pop. Virender Sehwag, briefly, and Yuvraj Singh, for a little longer, showed why such formidable reputations precede them. But the sustained explosion needed in the final five to six overs didn’t materialise.

While the profligacy of the first game wasn’t reprised in it entirety by India’s top-order, their shot selection wasn’t above reproach.

Daniel Vettori again bowled a cunning spell of left-arm orthodox spin, but the surprise package was Ryder’s shoulder-strong medium-pacers.

India was hurt late in its innings by M.S. Dhoni struggling with his timing. The Indian captain scratched around at less than a run a ball.

Cracking start

Brendon McCullum and Ryder got New Zealand off to a cracking start, which kept the home side from panicking when Harbhajan and Jadeja readmitted India in the contest.

Brendon McCullum paced it just right, although he was forced into brilliance in the last over. Fortunately, he has the game to go with the swagger.

Thus was the Twenty20 world champion bested 2-0.

SCOREBOARD

 India: G. Gambhir c B. McCullum b Butler 10 (13b, 1x6); V. Sehwag c Vettori b O’Brien 24 (11b, 5x4); S. Raina c Southee b Butler 0 (4b); Yuvraj c Oram b O’Brien 50 (34b, 3x4, 4x6); M.S. Dhoni (not out) 28 (30b, 2x4); Yusuf b Vettori 0 (2b); R. Jadeja c Guptill b Southee 19 (16b, 1x4, 1x6); Irfan (not out) 15 (10b, 1x6); Extras (lb-2, w-1): 3; Total (for six wkts. in 20 overs): 149.

Fall of wickets: 1-29 (Sehwag), 2-36 (Raina), 3-47 (Gambhir), 4-92 (Yuvraj), 5-94 (Yusuf), 6-121 (Jadeja).

Power Play (overs 1 to 6): 47/2.

New Zealand bowling: Southee 4-0-36-1, O’Brien 4-0-30-2, Butler 4-0-42-2, Vettori 4-0-21-1, Ryder 4-0-18-0.

New Zealand: J. Ryder b Zaheer 26 (15b, 3x4, 2x6); B. McCullum (not out) 69 (55b, 8x4, 1x6); M. Guptill lbw b Harbhajan 10 (19b, 1x4); R. Taylor b Irfan 27 (25b, 2x4); J. Oram c Dhoni b Irfan 0 (1b); N. Broom c Irfan b Yuvraj 5 (3b, 1x4); N. McCullum (not out) 1 (2b); Extras (b-1, lb-6, w-5): 12; Total (for five wkts. in 20 overs): 150.

Fall of wickets: 1-53 (Ryder), 2-69 (Guptill), 3-125 (Taylor), 4-125 (Oram); 5-134 (Broom).

Power Play (overs 1 to 6): 60/1.

India bowling: Irfan 4-0-41-2, Zaheer 4-0-30-1, Ishant 2-0-19-0, Harbhajan 4-0-15-1, Jadeja 4-0-21-0, Yuvraj 2-0-17-1.

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