December 1, 2010 1:59:31 pm
Gautam Gambhir stamped his authority with a majestic century as India romped to a convincing eight-wicket win thereby taking a 2-0 lead in the five-match ODI series against New Zealand,at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium.
Gambhir,the stand-in captain led by example carrying his bat through the innings for an unbeaten 116-ball 138,after S Sreesanth’s inspired spell at the death helped the hosts restrict New Zealand to 258 for eight in the second one-dayer. Virat Kohli,after his match-winning hundred in the series opener in Guwahati,continued to impress,compiling a neat 64 off 73 balls. But by the time Ross Taylor produced a blinder at short midwicket to send Kohli back,the issue was more or less sealed.
This was Gambhir’s first century in almost a year,the last one coming in the home series against Sri Lanka on Christmas eve when he smashed an unbeaten 150 at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. Gambhir’s knock was decorated with 18 sweetly timed hits to the fence and a six.
During their march to victory,India had two fruitful partnerships – Gambhir and Murali Vijay gave the hosts a solid start putting on 87 runs for the first wicket,before Kohli joined the captain to forge a century stand that made only one result possible: An India victory.
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Gambhir then,in the company of Yuvraj Singh,completed the task in the 43rd over.
Both Gambhir and Kohli got to their personal landmarks with boundaries. Kohli pulled Kyle Mills over square-leg boundary to notch up his eight ODI fifty,and moments later,Gambhir reached his hundred by dispatching McKay over midwicket,his eighth ton in this format of the game.
The start was,however,tentative for the Indian captain — he nearly played a Mills delivery on to his stumps. But that was all New Zealand could manage as Gambhir soon started dealing in boundaries and how.
He began proceedings with an uppish drive over mid-off for a boundary. The southpaw then gave himself some room and smashed Mills through point for the same result,before easing into another majestic drive through extra cover and mid-off off the same bowler.
Off side turned out to be his favoured area and anything pitched on or outside off was treated with sheer disdain by the Delhi left-hander,who was particularly severe on Mills in the first few overs of India innings.
After dominating Mills,Gambhir then turned his attention towards Andy Mckay and Scott Styris and welcomed both with boundaries. While McKay was clipped off his hips over midwicket boundary,Gambhir send one Styris delivery soaring over mid-off.
Murali Vijay,meanwhile,sent Daniel Vettori over the midwicket region but the Chennai lad,as is often the case with him,wasted another start getting out to the New Zeland skipper while going for a slog sweep.
But,with Gambhir timing the ball to perfection and well supported by an in-form Kohli at the other end,India’s hundred was up in the 20th over.
With his captain in such dominating mood,all Kohli had to do was rotate the strike but the Delhi youngster was not one to be left far behind and played some delightful shots on both sides of the wicket.
Earlier,Sreesanth took the important wickets of opener Jamie How,Styris,Vettori and Mills to finish with impressive figures of four for 47 in nine overs,the sole reason India managed to restrict the visitors to a manageable total after Styris and Vettori threatened to take the match away with a swashbuckling half-century stand.
The Kiwi was given out in controversial circumstances when he fell caught behind to Ashwin after making a painstaking fifty. His innings was laced with three boundaries and a lofted six off Pathan over midwicket.
Styris and Vettori took over after Guptill’s dismissal. Styris powered his way to a breezy 59 off 56 balls with the help of five fours and a huge six,while Vettori contributed 31 off 32,an innings that included four hits to the fence.
Sreesanth,however,had other ideas and struck when India needed him the most,removing dangerman Styris and Kiwi skipper Vettori off successive deliveries. Nathan McCullum survived the hat-trick ball.
Often perceived to be profligate with the new as well as the old ball in the shorter format of the game due to his high economy rate,Sreesanth today bowled much better,hardly straying in line and length.
It was therefore not a surprise to find the Kerala bowler provide India their first breakthrough,in the form of Jamie How’s wicket. It was a fullish delivery just outside off that moved away late on landing. How went for a drive but only managed to get an edge and wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha did the rest.
The temperamental pacer not only used the late outswinger to good effect but also brought the batsmen forward without bowling half-volleys and the occasional incoming deliveries kept the Kiwis on their toes.
First change Munaf Patel,coming in for the mediocre Ashish Nehra,impressed immediately,posing some serious questions to Guptill and Williamson.
Maintaining a good line and length instead of bowling flat out,Munaf was rewarded for his discretion when he went through the gate of Williamson in his fourth over.
The young and immensely talented Kiwi was just shaping up to play a good innings when Munaf got one to swing in slightly from a good length that clipped the bail on the off-stump.
Munaf could have had another in his bag,when Ross Taylor attempted an extravagant shot off the bowler,but Ravichandran Ashwin,positioned in the region between deep square-leg and deep mid-wicket,dropped a sitter to deny the bower what should have been a well-deserved wicket.
That miss,however,didn’t turn out to be a costly one for India as Yusuf Pathan flummoxed Taylor with the first ball of his spell. Taylor,who top-scored for the visitors in their 40-run defeat in the first match in Guwahati,went for a slog-sweep to a delivery that pitched over midwicket,but could not clear the waiting hands of Virat Kohli.
Ashish Nehra,on the other hand,was nowhere close to his best in his first spell,though,he managed to hit the pads a few times. When he pitched the ball short,Kane Williamson was equal to the task pulling him over square for a boundary,his first scoring shot during his brief but impressive innings.
The over-pitched ones were either driven through the cover or straight down the ground while the length balls were punched through the cover-point region by the Guptill and Williamson.
Nehra was brought back in the 38th over of the Kiwi innings,immediately after Guptill¿s dismissal,but he hardly looked threatening.
What didn’t help New Zealand¿s cause was that,despite three fifty stands during the innings,the Kiwis sorely lacked one big partnership,something which could have put the Indians under some real pressure.
Keeping the dew factor in mind,the visitors ought to have scored more as that would have given their bowlers the cushion and the chance to set an even more attacking field.
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