Written by Sriram Veera | | Christchurch | February 15, 2015 1:03:00 am
Four New Zealanders brought some life to a dull opener of World Cup 2015 in chilly Christchurch. One of them was drunk and naked, the other two were swaggering batsmen, but it’s the fourth that brought some nostalgic joy.
The streaker got the crowd smiling, Brendon McCullum and Corey Anderson entertained, but it was Vettori who gladdened the hearts as this team can do with a good spinning option in the middle overs.
Joy isn’t the adjective usually associated with Vettori’s art. Smart, yes and disciplined, definitely, but there isn’t the ‘ooh did you see that delivery?’ sentiment with him. Since he doesn’t really turn the ball much, you don’t usually hit Youtube to see his old spells.
But an aging cricketer, especially someone who has come out of semi-retirement, automatically creates a sense of excitement.
The best thing about Vettori’s bowling is the difficulty that batsmen have in picking up his length early, a skill that comes from the way he releases the ball. His bowling is all about length and changes in pace.
As it’s been noted over the years, you can drive, punch and steer, but rarely cut him. His is an art of discipline, not of aesthetics. The Saturday crowd, a near full house at the 18,000 capacity Hagley Park, saw that side of him again.
All the usual images associated with him were there: The occasional bending of the back just before release, the arm-ball that almost swerves in air, and above all, that impeccable length.
Having struggled to punch or drive him from the crease, and finding nothing to cut, Tillakaratne Dilshan almost absentmindedly stretched out for a drive, sliding forward a touch early. Enough time for Vettori to slip the ball out of his palm almost, and the ball stopped a touch on Dilshan, who wafted back a return catch. Sri Lanka had made a sprightly start to their chase of 332, reaching 67 in the 13th over, but that dismissal started to change things around.
Vettori’s next battle was against Mahela Jayawardene. There was a slip in place but he tried to guide it past the man for a single. Mistake.
It wasn’t the break-away that produced the edge but that illusion of length and the extra pace on it. The trajectory was flat and combined with the pace, the length created the mistake. It wasn’t slow or full enough for a gentle steer, it wasn’t short enough for the intended deflection and the pace created an iffy prod. With it Sri Lanka slipped to 125 for 3, and it was no surprise they couldn’t recover from there on.
There wasn’t much for Sri Lanka to take from the game. Lahiru Thirumanne impressed with his resplendent punched-drives, a la Kumar Sangakkara in style, and though Lasith Malinga leaked 84 runs, with Brendon McCullum smashing him in the opening spell, he at least got on to the park after his recent injury and produced some yorkers in the end overs to raise some hope.
The fielding wasn’t great though and they dropped four catches that stubbed out the partial recovery they had made in the middle overs through the spin of Jeevan Mendis and Rangana Herath.
On the other hand, New Zealand have shrugged off early anxieties about how they will deal with the unfamiliar position of being one of the favourites. Corey Anderson, who blasted a fifty to help them amp up the run-rate in the end, talked about how their “juggernaut” can keep rolling forward.
A journalist from New Zealand perked up at that word and brought up memories of the 1992 run led by Martin Crowe. “They had their way, and that’s what people remember them for, but we want to be remembered in our own way as well,” Anderson said.
For the sake of this tournament which lacks an abundance of strong teams, New Zealand can hopefully keep rolling on the good times.