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Yusuf grounds flying Kiwis

cricket Updated: Dec 08, 2010 02:04 IST
Nikhilesh Bhattacharya
Nikhilesh Bhattacharya
Hindustan Times
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It was always going to be a big ask: a target of 316 under lights with the in-form batsmen out early and a rain-interruption thrown in for good measure. It is just that Yusuf Pathan had the answer.

When play resumed after the one-hour break at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium on Tuesday night, India needed 113 from 14 overs with five wickets in hand.

That is when Pathan (123no) decided to come to the party.

Playing the kind of innings that has transformed many a hopeless chase into a successful one in domestic cricket and the Indian Premier League (IPL), Pathan laid into the New Zealand attack with savage intent.

First ball after the break, Daniel Vettori was deposited over long-on for six. And after the batting power play was taken in the 38th over, a Kyle Mills delivery was hit on to the roof of the stadium.

A disdainfully pulled six off Mills took Pathan to his century, off 79 balls with seven fours and six sixes.

And the assault did not end there. With Saurabh Tiwary lending good support, Pathan took India to victory in the 49th over.

Stand-in captain Gautam Gambhir had insisted before the match that his young team had been properly tested by New Zealand, but in reality it was just his top three batsmen who had got the job done till now, along with competent performances from the bowlers.

Of the top three, opener M Vijay was dropped for this match and Andy Mckay got rid of Gambhir and Virat Kohli in the 10th over. That meant the rest of the batsmen had to stand up to be counted.

Most of them did not. Parthiv Patel, opening the innings, hit a fifty and then threw it away. Yuvraj Singh failed to get that one big knock everyone craves from him ahead of next year's World Cup.

New Zealand had to get Rohit Sharma out twice and did: on the first occasion umpire Amiesh Saheba failed to detect a big inside edge off Daniel Vettori; on the second, Sharma slapped one straight to Vettori at mid-off.

The Pathan show was yet to unfold though. In the afternoon, India's rotation policy was evident for the first time in the series with the team management picking both Tiwary and Sharma while dropping Vijay and allrounder Ravindra Jadeja.

Gambhir elected to field under overcast skies and watched New Zealand post their best total in a long while thanks to a remarkable knock from allrounder James Franklin that included 21 runs off the last five deliveries of the innings.