On a packed day where 726 runs were scored, several records were broken but even the sum total of all this action could not match up to the towering presence of Sachin Tendulkar.
Tendulkar scored his first ODI ton in New Zealand and threatened to become the first player to score an ODI double-hundred as India vanquished a spirited New Zealand by 58 runs to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series.
Brendon McCullum, leading the team in the absence of Daniel Vettori, chose to put India in and for nearly all of 50 overs regretted doing so. The only glimmer of hope for the bowlers, who were often wayward and occasionally clueless, came when Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir were both dismissed relatively early, by the 13th over, with only 65 on the board.
But any hopes proved to be false as Yuvraj Singh began with the positive intent that makes him irresistible on his day. There’s been plenty of talk about the small boundaries at the AMI Oval, but even the longest boundary at the mighty MCG would not have been enough to contain the left-hander.
In the 16.4 overs Yuvraj stayed at the crease, he plundered 87 from 60 balls in a 138-run stand with Tendulkar. It was only terminated by an over-eager glide towards third man that sent the ball straight into the keeper’s gloves.
If you had to pick one Tendulkar innings that provided an accurate depiction of every stage of his long career, this was the one. Heavy straight drives, clever lap sweeps, controlled aerial hitting, and then much more was on display as Tendulkar gave full expression to his wide range. Had it not been for a sore abdominal muscle there was little to stop Tendulkar from getting to 200.
When he could continue no more, and retired hurt on 163 (133b, 16x4, 5x6) India were well on their way to a mammoth total. That MS Dhoni (68) and Suresh Raina (38 not out from only 18 balls) played their parts to the hilt helped as India ended on 392.
Jesse Ryder (105) and McCullum (71) set up a tremendous platform, establishing a base camp of 166 runs from 22 overs before the first wicket fell, but the home side still faced a mountain too tall to climb. The remaining batsmen felt the pressure of the mounting required rate and could not help but perish. That they went down all guns blazing, with even Kyle Mills (54 from 32) exploding at No 9, was a credit to their fighting spirit.