Seddon Park in Hamilton has a central block of nine pitches. Which means they are cramped up almost side by side. Still that should be no excuse for landing the ball on the adjacent strip, as Ishant Sharma very nearly did at the start of the 39th over. As such, one wide ball doesn’t mean much: it is after all an extra ball and one added run (though Ishant’s ball to Corey Anderson merited to be counted as two extras). But sometimes, as it is in this case, and as it was in Steve Harmison’s case during the 2006-07 Ashes when he sent down that first ball, it underlines the general waywardness of the bowler which goes beyond just one delivery.
Ishant’s ball did just that. It was symptomatic of the inherent erratic nature of his craft, while also summing up India’s overall bowling performance on the day: way-off-the-mark. Consequently, for the second game in a row, the World Champions conceded a formidable total which their batsmen couldn’t chase down despite significant efforts from their captain and vice-captain.
Set a revised target of 297 in 42 overs in a rain interrupted match, India, thanks to Virat Kohli’s 65-ball 78 and Mahendra Singh Dhoni 44-ball-56 came close but eventually fell short by 19 runs. In the process, the World Champions also ceded their No.1 ranking, which they had held for the last 12 months, to Australia. India may reclaim the top spot should Australia fail to whitewash England in the ODI series. However, it’s the loss of their aura that should be more worrying.
After Napier, the inquest mostly surrounded the pull shot, openers, No.4 and Suresh Raina. But it was the bowlers who gave away 292 runs in the first place. On Wednesday too, India conceded more than should have.
Yet, in the initial overs, it looked better than it turned out to be. After Dhoni won the toss and sent New Zealand in — a decision that would comeback to bite him — the Indian bowlers seemed to have a plan against the Kiwi batsmen. Bhuvneshwar Kumar tied the struggling Martin Guptill down with an off-stump line, while Mohammad Shami, instructed perhaps to bounce the hosts out, dug in short ones against the belligerent Jesse Ryder. Ryder hit a few shots, but was out off a Shami bouncer that he looked to cut above slips but could only edge to continued…