Nervous meltdown

New Zealand's hero... Mitchell McClenaghan (left) celebrates with wicketkeeper Luke Ranchi on dismissing India's opening batsman Rohit Sharma. The left-arm fast bowler turned the tables on India, claiming four wickets for 68 runs.-AP New Zealand's hero... Mitchell McClenaghan (left) celebrates with wicketkeeper Luke Ranchi on dismissing India's opening batsman Rohit Sharma. The left-arm fast bowler turned the tables on India, claiming four wickets for 68 runs.

The left-arm fast bowler Mitchell McClenaghan, indeed, saves his best for the last. His superb final burst helped New Zealand draw first blood in the five-match ODI series against India. S. Dinakar reports.

One-day Internationals can change in a matter of a few deliveries. The game at McLean Park provided another evidence of this. Going into the final stretch, India had the momentum. A rampant Virat Kohli was past his 18th hundred in this format. Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, India’s best finisher, had his eyes on the target. Chasing a demanding 293, India was well on its way.

Then the script changed with the entry of Mitchell McClenaghan. The left-arm fast bowler has earned the reputation of being a strike bowler in the closing stages of an innings. He, indeed, saves his best for the last. His final burst was the turning point.

McClenaghan fired out Dhoni with a short-pitched delivery, wicketkeeper Luke Ronchi taking the resultant edge. He then snared the left-handed Ravindra Jadeja outside the off-stump and had Kohli taken at cover.

Against the run of play, New Zealand closed out the contest. In its 24-run victory in the series opener, the Kiwis displayed confidence. India did not.

In fact, a large number of Indian supporters took India’s victory for granted once Kohli went past the three-figure mark. For, India had never lost a game whenever Kohli had made a century in a chase.

Well, there is always the first time. The surface for the match had bounce but did not offer significant lateral movement. The nature of the pitch and the short square boundaries meant the pull stroke was a productive one. Yet, the execution of this shot is fraught with danger. One has to pick the length and judge the bounce early. Otherwise, there is always the chance of a top-edge.

Four of India’s batsmen — Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina and Dhoni — fell while either attempting to pull or hook.

“The other option is not to play the pull. Now with two bouncers allowed in an over, our batsmen do not want to let these deliveries go by. They want to score off them. But we can improve in picking the right ball,” said skipper Dhoni.

McClenaghan was not the only hero for New Zealand. All-rounder Corey Anderson was the toast as well. He biffed a 40-ball unbeaten 68 to power the Kiwis close to the 300-run mark. His weighty pick-up shots and pulls often sent the ball to the stadium roof over the square-leg fence.

Given his methods, it was hardly surprising that Anderson had smashed the record for the quickest ODI hundred, at Queenstown, on the first day of 2014.

Anderson is not all about heavy hitting though. He can also send down lively left-arm pace. He scalped two under the lights to walk away with the Man of the Match award.

Big IPL contracts beckon but Anderson said, “I am focussed on the current series.” The well-built all-rounder is working on his bowling and feels he will get better with more international experience.

Dhoni said, “He (Anderson) enabled New Zealand to get 25-30 runs extra which made the difference in the end.”

New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum underlined the efforts of Kane Williamson (71) and Ross Taylor (55). The third wicket partnership of 121 runs proved to be the backbone of the Kiwi innings. “They played the spinners very well. Set things up,” said McCullum.

Of course, cameos from Brendon McCullum himself and Ronchi did manage to scatter the Indian attack.

Mohammed Shami, pacey and focussed, impressed in the Indian attack. He rocked New Zealand early in the innings, returned to bowl with intent in the middle and then sent down a terrific 49th over, pegging the Kiwis back as they sought to cross the 300-run mark.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar operated within his limitations to return the most economical figures but the erratic Ishant Sharma was taken to the cleaners. These days Ishant tends to lose his line when attacked.

Ashwin did a fair job in conditions not suited for his kind of bowling, but he needs to beat the batsmen in the air to strike. Deception has to be his principal weapon on this tour.

Despite the reverse, Dhoni had something memorable from the match. When he caught Taylor off Shami, he became only the fourth wicketkeeper in the game to be involved in 300 ODI dismissals.

THE SCORES

First ODI: India vs. New Zealand, McLean Park, Napier, January 19, 2014.

Result: New Zealand won by 24 runs.

New Zealand: M. Guptill c Ashwin b Shami 8, J. Ryder b Shami 18, K. Williamson c Rahane b Jadeja 71, R. Taylor c Dhoni b Shami 55, B. McCullum c Dhoni b B. Kumar 30, C. Anderson (not out) 68, L. Ronchi c B. Kumar b I. Sharma 30, N. McCullum c & b Shami 2, T. Southee (not out) 3, Extras (lb-1, w-6) 7. Total: (for 7 wkts in 50 overs) 292.

Fall of wickets: 1-22, 2-32, 3-153, 4-171, 5-213, 6-279, 7-284.

India bowling: B. Kumar 10-0-38-1, M. Shami 9-0-55-4, I. Sharma 9-0-72-1, R. Jadeja 9-0-61-1, R. Ashwin 10-0-52-0, V. Kohli 3-0-13-0.

India: R. Sharma c Southee b McClenaghan 3, S. Dhawan c Taylor b Anderson 32, V. Kohli c Ryder b McClenaghan 123, A. Rahane c N. McCullum b Anderson 7, S. Raina c Southee b Milne 18, M. S. Dhoni c Ronchi b McClenaghan 40, R. Jadeja c Ronchi b McClenaghan 0, R. Ashwin c Southee b Williamson 12, B. Kumar run out 6, I. Sharma b Southee 5, M. Shami (not out) 7. Extras (lb-3, w-12) 15. Total (in 48.4 overs) 268.

Fall of wickets: 1-15, 2-73, 3-84, 4-129, 5-224, 6-224, 7-237, 8-244, 9-259.

New Zealand bowling: T. Southee 9.4-2-43-1, M. McClenaghan 10-0-68-4, A. Milne 7.3-0-40-1, C. Anderson 10-0-51-2, N. McCullum 10-0-54-0, K. Williamson 1.3-0-9-1.