Rain ruins match

SACHIN TENDULKAR is among the better judges of a cricket pitch in the world today.

SANJAY RAJAN

SACHIN TENDULKAR is among the better judges of a cricket pitch in the world today. One actually gets a cue to the bounce, as well as the quality of the opposition's attack, by just watching the maestro from Mumbai make adjustments early in the innings.

Chris Cairns gets one through Virender Sehwag's defence. -- Pic. N. BALAJI-

In the opening contest (day/ night) of the TVS Cup limited-overs tri-series at the Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai, which was abandoned owing to rain after just 26.5 overs were bowled (the teams took three points each), Tendulkar did not shuffle and was quick to come on to the front foot. This only meant that the wicket was true and the Kiwi attack, at the most, honest.

Had the contest run its full course, Chennai could well have been the venue of his 35th LOI century; such was Tendulkar's control over the situation. He was two short of fifty (66b, 5x4), when sharp showers forced an end to the contest, which was interestingly poised with the host three down for 141 after stand-in skipper Rahul Dravid had elected to bat.

Tendulkar, who had struggled to find his touch in the Test series, took time to settle down while Virender Sehwag lived dangerously during the opening-wicket stand of 53. The Delhi batsman's slash off mediumpacer Jacob Oram carried till the ropes where Chris Cairns failed to hold on to the ball.

There was unmistakable power and timing in Sehwag's strokes, as he slashed opening bowler Daryl Tuffey for a six and then square-drove the same bowler to the fence. But Tuffey, who brought the odd delivery back into the right-hander dangerously, had Sehwag playing all over one such delivery; with the batsman neither on the back foot nor on the front.

Meanwhile, Tendulkar began stroking the ball with increasing confidence, off-driving Tuffey to the fence and pulling and driving Oram for boundaries.

The umpires, A. V. Jayaprakash and David Shepherd, confer with the captains, Rahul Dravid and Stephen Fleming, after the rain had come down in buckets.-

The enigmatic all-rounder Cairns, coming on for Tuffey in the ninth over, deceived Tendulkar with change of pace. The resultant leading edge, however, fell short of the bowler. But in the very same over — his first — Cairns had Sehwag playing-on; off the back foot with the bat-pad gap pretty huge.

Mediumpacer Scott Styris and left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori also struck in their first overs, but then both V.V.S. Laxman and Rahul Dravid succumbed to strokes played across the line: the former caught at deep mid-wicket after having collected 14 runs off Paul Hitchcock only the previous over, while the latter failed to keep his flick down.

Tendulkar and the hard-hitting Yuvraj Singh helped the side recover from 93 for three before the rain put an end to the contest.

Sachin Tendulkar appeals to the umpires about the light as Yuvraj Singh watches. — Pics. N. SRIDHARAN & N. BALAJI-

There had been fears that the match would be a non-starter, considering that it had poured for three days until the eve of the contest. But the outfield was in reasonable shape owing to the whole ground being protected with the help of 50 covers which had been strung together.

It had rained the last time New Zealand had met India in Chennai, which was a Test match during the 1995 series. The last time the Kiwis played in the southern metropolis was that cliffhanger of a day/ night contest against Australia in the 1996 World Cup.

The scores:

India: V. Sehwag b Cairns 31, S. Tendulkar (not out) 48, V.V.S. Laxman c sub (Mills) b Styris 25, R. Dravid c Styris b Vettori 4, Yuvraj Singh (not out) 29. Extras (w-3, nb-1) 4. Total (for three wkts. in 26.5 overs) 141.

Fall of wickets: 1-53, 2-88, 3-93.

New Zealand bowling: Tuffey 4-0-26-0, Oram 6-0-31-0, Cairns 3-0-16-1, Hitchcock 3-0-17-0, Styris 4-0-19-1, Vettori 4-0-21-1, Harris 2.5-0-11-0.