One of the worst sights in international cricket is a mediocre batsman being made to look good on a flat pitch that renders even the most skilful bowler toothless.
From an aesthetic point of view, though, what is even less edifying is watching quality batsmen struggle and ordinary bowlers sneaking wickets because of the pitch.
In a strangulated ODI where bowlers ruled, India got the better of New Zealand by six wickets, knocked the Kiwis out of the tournament and assured themselves of a place in the final.
Saturday’s match against Sri Lanka becomes of only academic interest — and of this there is no shortage as India temporarily took the No 1 spot in the ICC ODI rankings.
India, with 128 points are technically ahead of South Africa, who have 127, but to stay at pole when the rankings are officially announced in a week the men in blue have to ensure they don’t lose either of their two matches against Sri Lanka.
In the ICC’s complex method of determining points, India receive considerably less points for defeating New Zealand or Sri Lanka than would be the case if the result went the other way, on the basis that India are higher ranked than both.
None of this had any bearing on the play, though, as Daniel Vettori won a crucial toss and watched helplessly as his batsmen fluffed their lines. Jesse Ryder, Brendon McCullum, Ross Taylor, Martin Guptill and Grant Elliott managed to do worse than in their opening game of the tournament, being reduced to 66 for 5 as opposed to Tuesday’s 69 for 5.
Ashish Nehra picked up three wickets to take his ODI tally past 100 and Yuvraj Singh winkled out as many with his loopy left-arm spin. In the end, New Zealand managed 155.
Dinesh Karthik was unlucky to be given out lbw to a ball that appeared to strike him high on the pad and be heading down leg. Rahul Dravid’s return seemed anything but auspicious as he struggled to get the ball away. After a tortured hour and five minutes that yielded 14 runs from 45 balls, Dravid failed to get bat to an attempted flick and was trapped in front by Jacob Oram.
Sachin Tendulkar (46), who had been largely purring along, working the ball off his toes with elan and piercing the off-side field with controlled cuts, was out to a soft dismissal, presenting Guptill at cover with the simplest of catches.
Yuvraj then sent the ball up in the air and was caught by Guptill. At 84 for 4 India’s top-order had done their bit to keep the game alive, but Dhoni (45 not out) and Suresh Raina (35 not out) kept their heads and walked India past the target.
New Zealand: B McCullum lbw b Nehra 3, J Ryder lbw b Nehra 0, M Guptill c Dravid b Yuvraj 22, R Taylor c Dhoni b RP 11, G Elliott c Dhoni b Yuvraj 22, J Oram c & b Ishant 24, N Broom c Raina b Yuvraj 21, D Vettori b Ishant 25, K Mills b RP 6, I Butler c Harbhajan b Nehra 6, S Bond not out 10
Extras (lb-4, w-1) 5
Total (all out; 46.3 overs) 155
Fall of wkts: 1-1, 2-4, 3-19, 4-51, 5-66, 6-101, 7-116, 8-134, 9-142, 155.
Bowling: Nehra 8.3-0-24-3, RP Singh 8-2-22-2, Ishant 10-2-26-2, Yuvraj 10-0-31-3, Harbhajan 8-0-39-0, Raina 1-0-4-0, Yusuf 1-0-5-0
India: D Karthik lbw b Mills 4, S Tendulkar c Guptill b Vettori 46, R Dravid lbw b Oram 14, Yuvraj Singh c Guptill b Vettori 8, MS Dhoni not out 35, S Raina not out 45
Extras (lb-3, w-1) 4
Total (for 4 wkts; 40.3 ovs) 156
Fall of wkts: 1-7, 2-67, 3-71, 4-84.
Bowling: Mills 5.3-1-25-1, Bond 10-3-30-0, Butler 4-0-25-0, Vettori 10-0-33-2, Oram 7-1-19-1, Elliott 2-0-9-0, Guptill 2-0-12-0