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.
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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 Dhoni.
But Kane Williamson and Guptill played contrasting knocks — one fluent, the other scratchy — as they went about building a platform for a big score. After Bhuvneshwar and Shami had bowled their first spell, Dhoni tried Ishant, Ravindra Jadeja, Kohli, R Ashwin and Raina in the space of nine overs, hoping for something to click as Williamson and Guptill took the total past 100. Raina clicked when Guptill’s attempted slogsweep off the part-timer was caught by Shami at leg gully.
However, Williamson and Taylor again did what they had done in the previous game as they added 60 runs for the the third wicket. It was then that the promised rain arrived. Two hours later, when it stopped, the game was reduced to 42 overs a side, and the hosts had only eight more overs to launch the assault they had built up to.
Just after resumption, Williamson was stumped by Dhoni off Jadeja, after making 77. In walked Corey Anderson ahead of Bendon McCullum. The all-rounder warmed up with three fours off Jadeja.
Anderson seems to have a weakness against the yorker outside off-stump, and Shami got his first ball to the pinch-hitter right on the money. However, he erred in length on the next one and was deposited over long off for the first of Anderson’s five sixes.
Bhuvneshwar, Ishant and Ashwin all bore the brunt as Anderson and Taylor plundered 58 runs off the four batting powerplay overs.
Anderson got out trying to hit Ishant for his sixth six, but not before giving another exhibition of his hard-hitting prowess with a 17-ball 44. New Zealand lost quick wickets towards the end, but this assault was enough to take their score to 271/7, which was then adjusted to 296 under D-L calculations.
The daunting total meant India had to hit the top gear right from the start. Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan played a few strokes before getting out trying to go for the big one. Kohli picked up from where he left off in Napier while Rahane from where he had left off in South Africa. The India vice captain scored his second consecutive half century but Rahane was dismissed by Mitchell McCleanaghan off a short ball which the batsman tried to pull but nicked to the keeper.
Dhoni promoted himself and his partnerships with Kohli and Raina kept India in the chase. He brought the equation down to a very chase-able 40 ball 18. However, he got out trying to hit Anderson out of the park. India need 40 off 17 at that time — that is roughly what Corey Anderson scored off the Indian bowlers today.