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Unstoppable India pocket the series with a nine-wicket victory

Stand-in skipper Gautam Gambhir continued in the sublime form he has hit in this series and saw India home in the 40th over with nine wickets in hand. Nilankur Das reports. Defining moments | Gambhir's arc of fire | Back-to-back centurians

cricket Updated: Dec 05, 2010 01:16 IST
Nilankur Das
Nilankur Das
Hindustan Times

The Mexican Wave circled and its roar intensified at the Reliance Stadium as the afternoon session began. New Zealand had all but lost the match in the first session and a target of 225 was just for kicks.

Neither was it competitive nor was it as insignificant that people would not wait till the chase ended. There seemed no other pleasure as unadulterated as watching the home team spank the visiting bowlers to all corners on a pitch that died halfway into the first session.

Stand-in skipper Gautam Gambhir continued in the sublime form he has hit in this series and saw India home in the 40th over with nine wickets in hand. It was his second unbeaten ton in as many matches, which made him the eighth Indian to score back-to-back ODI hundreds.

For the stands it meant a bouquet of exquisite cover and extra-cover drives, some delicate steers to the third-man fence and some lofted shots over mid-on. A New Zealand top order that was yet to click in the series did not quite stand a chance on a morning wicket with Zaheer Khan running in.

Brendon McCullum has demolished bowling line-ups in the past. But returning to the middle, recovering from a lower back spasm, on a wicket that had just that wee bit of dampness that can make dangerous bowlers lethal, he perished.

Not often do our bowlers get a chance to have a go at batsmen in the morning in the limited-overs formats. On Saturday, Zaheer, Ashish Nehra and Munaf Patel did everything that the Kiwi bowlers could not do in even more favourable conditions in Guwahati. They bowled the right length, drew the batsmen forward, and subtle variation in movement did the trick.

The red soil in the pitch predictably helped the ball grip and India's two off-spinners, R Ashwin and Yusuf Pathan, reaped dividends. Yuvraj Singh in leg-slip was the trap Scott Styris and wicketkeeper Gareth Hopkins fell into. In case of the left-handed Daniel Vettori, Yuvraj was at first-slip but the path of the ball remained the same.

The wicket showed signs of easing out as James Franklin stitched together a 94-run stand with Nathan McCullum for the eighth wicket. That somewhat revived the Kiwis struggling at 106 for seven in the 30th over. Franklin, who was drafted into the squad for the injured Jesse Ryder, scored an unbeaten 72 with five fours and a six.

The five-match series now reads 3-0 in favour of India. But it's not over. The India camp looking to gain as much confidence as possible going to South Africa has broken the series into two three-match series, the one here included in both.

First Published: Dec 04, 2010 23:55 IST