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Virat lands knockout punch

india Updated: Nov 29, 2010 01:12 IST
Nilankur Das
Nilankur Das
Hindustan Times
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India did the difficult part right, the easy part wrong. So after a good start given by the openers and Virat Kohli's century, which set them up for a 300-plus total, they failed to last the 50 overs and folded up for 276. The mistake did not cost them in the end as New Zealand failed to stitch together partnerships and fell 40 runs short.

Unlike Sunday's ODI series-opener, limited-over matches are generally day-night affairs these days, designed to accommodate towering totals. Batsmen can't just sit back and adapt a 'give the first hour to the bowlers' approach when the ball does a bit.

They need to constantly look for runs and play at almost everything. It becomes all the more difficult when players have to make these adjustments after an 8.30am start.

The morning was overcast. There was a fair amount of dew on the surface and the groundsmen worked wonders with the Super Soppers to get the match started on time.

In these conditions, when the Indian openers walked out after losing the toss, quick wickets could have tilted the match in favour of New Zealand, who were without skipper Daniel Vettori and Brendon McCullum, both nursing back injuries.

When Murali Vijay fell in the eighth over, India had 44 runs on the board and the bowling had become a lot more manageable. The last time India played here, against Australia last year in November, they were 27 for five by the ninth over and bundled out for 170. The comparison only accentuates how crucial the openers' role was.

New Zealand did not help their cause either and lost the plot in the first 90 minutes when seamers had the best chance of taking wickets. The experienced duo of Kyle Mills and Daryl Tuffey taking the new ball did not put the batsmen in discomfort very often.

There were deliveries that opened up Gautam Gambhir completely, but their frequency was not enough. They both bowled short, and at times wide.

Following the openers, Kohli and Yuvraj Singh played some exquisite shots on a wicket getting slower. Kohli excelled in Yuvraj's company and got to his second successive ODI ton, after the one against Australia in Visakhapatnam last month.

Yuvraj was a touch shaky early on and got a leading edge off Nathan McCullum that landed safely, but found his touch soon.

Delicate sweeps from the fine-leg to mid-wicket region with subtle changes in timing, deft touch to guide the ball to the third-man fence and some elegant shots around the wicket, Yuvraj looked set for a big one before he edged a drive.

Kohli then took charge. But India lost the rhythm during the last batting Power Play, from the 41st over.

They were 218 for three but finished about 30 runs short following an exhibition of poor shot selection.

That was threatening to pinch them when New Zealand put together a 67-run stand for the ninth wicket and looked in striking range.

Sreesanth, who had an ordinary opening spell, put himself on a hattrick to stop the Kiwi flight.