Hounded by BOND


Shane Bond scythed through the Indian top-order in a scary exhibition of speed. Here he has just dismissed opener Virender Sehwag.-V.V. KRISHNAN

IT was a bizarre match. India's left-armers Ashish Nehra and Irfan Pathan set their side up for victory, moving the ball in the air and restricting New Zealand to 215 on the same track they had scored 397 against Zimbabwe.

Shane Bond then scythed through the Indian top-order in a scary exhibition of speed, turning the match. "With the ball we were led by one man — Shane Bond," said Black Caps skipper Stephen Fleming. "What he gave us was belief when we walked out. We were 60 or 70 runs short otherwise."

And just when J. P. Yadav and Pathan threatened to take India home with a fighting, record (against New Zealand) ninth-wicket partnership of 118, the Kiwi paceman returned to dislodge Pathan. Both reached well-deserved half-centuries before Pathan lost concentration and nicked it to Brendon McCullum.

Yadav followed holing out to Craig McMillan off Jacob Oram and a match full of twists was laid to rest.

Sourav Ganguly called wrong and with the briefest of nods Stephen Fleming announced he would bat. The Kiwi captain gambled with the toss, nominating Bond as his Super Sub and hoping to bat first.

It worked brilliantly. Despite not batting out 50 overs, New Zealand came back through its spearhead. Bond made Ganguly fend off a snorter and yorked Indian Super Sub Venugopal Rao next ball. But, why had the Andhra youngster been pushed up?

"It was to give him an opportunity," said the Indian skipper. "I always feel that it's easier batting early while chasing."

Dravid, who should have come in at three, unleashed a resounding shot through the covers but could not ride a rising delivery and chopped on to his stumps. Yuvraj hung an irresponsible bat out at Adams. Nineteen for four.

Kaif slashed Bond to third-man's hands and got an earful from Sehwag, who was watching the procession. The man from Najafgarh went next. He sliced a fast, full Bond delivery and Hamish Marshall, at point, took off. When he landed, the ball was clasped, the palm upturned. Thirty-nine for six and game over.

Bond had taken five, and raised familiar questions about Indian batsmen and quality pace. But Yadav and Pathan fought all the way, striking the ball well and keeping their heads. Yadav, who was returning after two and a half years, showed character.

"He (J. P. Yadav) performed well under pressure, so it's good for us," said Ganguly. "We didn't bat well at the top of the order. The key will be how we play the new ball."

It had begun so well for India. Arriving the day before this match, they were expected to struggle with their energy levels. But, India's new-ball bowlers slipped into their rhythm and tormented the Kiwi batsmen.

Vincent has had trouble falling over his front leg in the past, and Pathan's in-nippers triggered it. His ninth ball snaked in, Vincent's left pad resisted, Russell Tiffin's right finger obliged. At the other end, Fleming's reach got him into trouble for once. His legs remained stuck, but his arms caught up with a Nehra outswinger.

Swing. That forgotten art ended Astle's stay, and of the first six overs, two were maidens. Twenty-six runs off 10 overs and Ganguly enforced Power Play 2. Scott Styris and Marshall have been the only two Kiwi batsmen to struggle in the Tests against Zimbabwe and India could not have hoped for a better pair.

Styris looked to hit himself into form. A sashay, a hoik and he departed — Ajit Agarkar scurrying from mid-off and positioning his palms to a swirler over his shoulder a la Kapil Dev. Another Pathan inswinger to Marshall and a hat-trick beckoned. Craig McMillan thwarted it but was lucky to survive an lbw appeal soon after.

Oram and he looked to settle as the left-arm swerve of Nehra (6-3-6-2) and Pathan (8-1-34-3) faded into the less malevolent skills of Agarkar and J. P. Yadav. Harbhajan was introduced in Power Play 3 and got McMillan (on 20) to sweep to a diving Yuvraj, who dropped it. An Oram chip off Harbhajan was misjudged by Agarkar. Another drop. And the 50 partnership was brought up.

Oram was dropped again, by J. P. Yadav. These three drops were the difference between a target of 150 and 215.

The two power-hitters chose the path of the occasional clobber, running hard in between. McMillan went to 50 with a slogged six, but a comical mix-up saw the giant sacrifice his wicket.

One brings two, they say in England. Ganguly kept his field in and McMillan (54, 54b, 5x4, 2x6) played Agarkar a tad early to spoon a catch. Cairns flickered briefly, but lapped Yadav to short-fine leg in the 36th over just when the Black Caps needed him to push on. McCullum, who is the best gloveman going around, blended a pair of fast heels and a sharp cricket brain. Meanwhile, Vettori was done in by an Agarkar whiplash from the boundary.

Fresh off a Test century and a 21-ball 50, the 23-year-old wicketkeeper dabbed, drove and pulled the Indian bowlers to make 49 in 39 balls before being the last man to be dismissed, New Zealand 6.5 overs short of 50.

"The result looked comfortable," said Fleming, "it was a surprising day, one full of character. We got tested and came through strong. We are feeling pretty good. We played well below par and got a good win."

The scores

New Zealand: L. Vincent lbw b Pathan 4; S. Fleming c Dhoni b Nehra 1; N. Astle lbw b Nehra 5; H. Marshall lbw b Pathan 9; S. Styris c Agarkar b Pathan 11; J. Oram (run out) 36; C. McMillan c Pathan b Agarkar 54; C. Cairns c Harbhajan b Yadav 20; B. McCullum c Dravid b Agarkar 49; D. Vettori (run out) 13; A. Adams (not out) 3; Extras (b-1, lb-5, w-3, nb-1) 10. Total (in 43.1 overs) 215.

Fall of wickets: 1-6, 2-10, 3-13, 4-36, 5-36, 6-127, 7-130, 8-167, 9-199.

India bowling: Pathan 8-1-34-3; Nehra 8-3-22-2; Agarkar 7.1-0-45-2; Yadav 10-1-46-1; Harbhajan 9-1-55-0; Sehwag 1-0-7-0.

India: S. Ganguly c McCullum b Bond 5; V. Sehwag c Marshall b Bond 15; Y. Venugopal Rao b Bond 0; R. Dravid b Bond 5; Yuvraj Singh c Fleming b Adams 1; M. Kaif c McMillan b Bond 9; M. Dhoni c McCullum b Adams 2; A. Agarkar c Fleming b Adams 2; Jai P. Yadav c McMillan b Oram 69; I. Pathan c McCullum b Bond 50; Harbhajan Singh (not out) 0; Extras (lb-1, w-4, nb-1) 6. Total (in 37.2 overs) 164.

Fall of wickets: 1-11, 2-11, 3-17, 4-19, 5-34, 6-39, 7-43, 8-44, 9-162.

New Zealand bowling: Bond 9-3-19-6; Oram 6.2-0-41-1; Adams 8-0-37-3; Vettori 8-0-38-0; Cairns 2-0-8-0; Styris 4-0-20-0.

New Zealand full substitute: S. Bond (N. Astle, India innings, 0.0 ov).

India full substitute: Y. Venugopal Rao (A. Nehra, India innings, 2.3 ov).