A runaway victory for the home team

It was a shoot-out in Hyderabad, and the Indians came out with all their guns blazing.

S. DINAKARS. Dinakar

It was a shoot-out in Hyderabad, and the Indians came out with all their guns blazing.

Sachin Tendulkar was at his brilliant best against the Kiwis. Both the openers came up with centuries. — Pics. P. V. SIVAKUMAR-

In the `sudden death' that this final league game of the TVS tri-series certainly was, the Indians eliminated the Kiwis to live another day.

It was quite the perfect innings from the Men in Blue. Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag got the side off to a blistering start, there was consolidation in the middle overs, without too much damage in terms of wickets, and then Rahul Dravid assumed centre-stage.

There was no loss of momentum that has often come in the way of the Indians building up a huge score. This time around, things simply got better as the innings progressed.

The Kiwis, who were swept away by the onslaught, did not have a realistic chance once they began the chase.

For the Kiwis, little had gone right before the match. First, four cricketers pulled out of the tour of Pakistan and then their celebrated captain Stephen Fleming had to sit out this crucial game with a strained abdominal muscle.

Virender Sehwag (right) raised 182 runs for the first wicket at a blistering pace. Both the openers came up with centuries. — Pics. P. V. SIVAKUMAR-

Chris Cairns, himself under the injury cloud during the tournament, had to take over the reins and with only 12 fit players in the squad, there were not much options for him in terms of team-selection — the Kiwis had major worries in the top-order but there were no replacements around.

The Indians had arrived in Hyderabad with their bowling torn to tatters by the marauding Aussies in Bangalore. The selectors had reacted swiftly too.

There would be no Aashish Nehra for the match, whose comeback game in Bangalore had ended in a nightmare.

The heat was on India. The failure to qualify for the final of a home tournament would represent a major blow to the World Cup runner-up.

Tendulkar had declared before the match that the Indians would rather do than die in a do or die game.

And the little genius played one of his finest innings in the ODIs, sending a packed crowd at the Lal Bahadur Shastri stadium into raptures.

His opening partner did not lag behind, after Ganguly won an important toss. These have not been the easiest of times for Sehwag, who had gone of the boil somewhat after his century in the Mohali Test, but it was a different story in Hyderabad.

The openers sizzled even as the Kiwis reeled under the barrage of shots on a surface that held no devils for the batsmen. Tendulkar was at his majestic best, flicking, driving, cutting and pulling, his body and mind in perfect harmony.

The manner in which the openers destroyed the Kiwi attack — dangerman Darryl Tuffey included — showed that there was nothing overly wrong with the pitch as well. Before the game there had been apprehensions about the wicket being under prepared since only days earlier, the football event of the Afro-Asian games had been staged on this ground.

Curtator T. Madan got to work on the surface only from November 1, but Ganguly after a quick look at the pitch, said that it had been well rolled. Well, the Indian batsmen certainly did not complain.

Tendulkar conjured his 36th ODI hundred, coming up with strokes of stunning brilliance, and when he was finally dismissed by Chris Harris, he had already caused enough damage — his 102 consuming just 91 balls.

Sehwag was rocking too, to the music that emanated from the stands, and duly reached his sixth hundred in limited overs internationals. In the middle overs, Sehwag and Ganguly raised 74 in 64 balls, and it was a crucial stand considering that India was able to sustain the run-rate, while keeping wickets in hand for the final onslaught.

In the slog overs, Dravid whipped up an astonishing innings without slogging. The Karnataka batsman signalled his intentions with an awesome six over covers off Styris, and what followed took one's breath away.

The graceful right-hander was at his innovative best, slicing open the hapless New Zealand attack, and along with the fast-running Mohammed Kaif, who was quick to give back the strike to him, raised 50 runs for the sixth wicket in only 23 balls.

Sourav Ganguly takes the support of Virender Sehwag as he suffers from cramps. Ganguly ultimately missed the final against Australia. — Pic. AFP-

It was off the last ball of the innings that Dravid smashed the ball to covers and then celebrated his fifty, which came off just 22 balls. The Indian vice-captain had proved more than a point even as the Kiwi bowling and fielding wilted under the heavy artillery bombardment from the Indians.

The second half of the match went along predictable lines. In pursuit of a mammoth 354 for a win, the Kiwi batsmen pegged back initially by a lively opening burst from Ajit Agarkar, were never really in the hunt, a few debatable leg-before decisions not helping their cause either.

Styris, rounding off a good tour of India, made a spirited half-century but the Kiwis continued to lose their way.

Leggie Anil Kumble was among the wickets, so too was Murali Kartik, who once again revealed his flight, turn and drift.

The scores:

India: Virender Sehwag c Vincent b Styris 130; Sachin Tendulkar c Oram b Harris 102; Sourav Ganguly c Tuffey b Styris 33; Yuvraj Singh c Harris b Mills 7; Rahul Dravid (not out) 50;Vangipurappu Laxman b Tuffey 3; Mohammad Kaif (not out) 15; Extras: (6lb, 1nb, 6w) 13; Total (for five wickets, 50 overs) 353.

Fall of wickets: 1-182, 2-256, 3-283, 4-284, 5-303.

New Zealand bowling: Daryl Tuffey 9-1-69-1, Kyle Mills 10-0-54-1, Jacob Oram 7-0-67-0, Chris Cairns 7-0-47-0, Scott Styris 6-0-46-2, Daniel Vettori 6-0-35-0, Chris Harris 5-0-29-1.

New Zealand: Chris Nevin b Agarkar 1; Lou Vincent lbw b Khan 23; Chris Harris lbw b Agarkar 1; Scott Styris c Agarkar b Kartik 54; Craig McMillan c Dravid b Kumble 20; Chris Cairns c Khan b Kumble 23; Jacob Oram st Dravid b Kartik 11; Brendon McCullum lbw b Khan 31; Daniel Vettori (run out) 19; Kyle Mills (not out) 7; Daryl Tuffey lbw b Khan 0; Extras: (2b, 8lb, 1nb, 7w) 18; Total (all out, 7 overs) 208.

Fall of wickets: 1-8, 2-25, 3-48, 4-110, 5-118, 6-136, 7-154, 8-187, 9-208.

India bowling: Zaheer Khan 8-1-31-3, Ajit Agarkar 6-0-28-2, Sachin Tendulkar 8-0-40-0, Anil Kumble 10-1-36-2, Murali Kartik 10-0-38-2, Yuvraj Singh 5-0-25-0.