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In Franklin, Black Caps find their man

Spectators were clapping as Ashish Nehra ran in to bowl the last ball of the New Zealand innings on Tuesday evening. They were not clapping in anticipation of a wicket. What they wanted was a boundary. Nikhilesh Bhattacharya reports

cricket Updated: Dec 08, 2010 02:07 IST
Nikhilesh Bhattacharya

Spectators were clapping as Ashish Nehra ran in to bowl the last ball of the New Zealand innings on Tuesday evening. They were not clapping in anticipation of a wicket. What they wanted was a boundary.

Saurabh Tiwary at long-off had just dropped a difficult catch to give James Franklin a reprieve and four runs in the bargain. The left-hander was batting on 97, having scored 20 off four Nehra deliveries.

The crowd that gathers at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium is known to applaud good performances, regardless of whether it comes from an Indian or an opposition player, and they appeared to be willing Franklin to a century.

Nehra deprives deserving ton
The century eluded the left-hander though, as Nehra finally managed to find the blockhole with the last ball. But Franklin got a big ovation as he walked off the ground with 98 to his name off 69 deliveries with 12 fours and three sixes.

It was the 30-year-old’s highest score in One-day Internationals.

New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori had called for a big performance — a century or a five-wicket haul — from one of his men in a bid to break a nine-ODI losing streak.

A big innings came, but from an unlikely hero. Franklin’s return to the New Zealand ODI side for this series had raised a few eyebrows because he came in as a replacement for injured top-order batsman Jesse Ryder.

The Franklin of old was a left-arm medium-pacer with the ability to swing the ball and also swing his bat well enough to have scored a Test century against South Africa at CapeTown in April 2006.

Meet Franklin, the batsman
The Franklin of new, however, is a batsman good enough to hold his own as a top-order batsman. At least that is what he did in List A cricket this English summer playing for Gloucestershire.

New Zealand still don’t rate him enough to give him a go at the top of the order, but the fact is Franklin has outscored all his teammates so far in the series despite playing only two of the four matches. His 170 runs put him far ahead of Martin Guptill (142), Scott Styris (137) and Ross Taylor (129).

The 98 unbeaten runs he scored on Tuesday proved Franklin can use more than just the long handle. He started patiently, before sweeping and cutting off-spinner Yusuf Pathan for two fours to get going. His drives, along the ground and lofted, were the results of beautiful swings of the bat till the last over, when they were brutal.

The late assault meant India were left chasing a target in excess of 300.