Sehwag’s record hundred

After being decimated by Virender Sehwag, Daniel Vettori, the New Zealand captain, admitted that his team had no answer to the Indian’s brilliance. Sehwag’s hundred came off a mere 60 balls, the fastest by an Indian. S. Ram Mahesh reports.

Virender Sehwag sent New Zealand’s bowlers scattering as a fox does a flock of hens in a broken coop, making the fastest century by an Indian to seal the series 3-0. It was India’s first in New Zealand, which prior to this tour was something of a bogey land. But after the homeside’s bowlers were acquainted with Sehwag, there’s no doubting who the bogey was. The 30-year-old opener played most strokes in the book, including the recently added pull, and several found perhaps only in the by-lanes of Najafgarh in a brutal innings. In all he hit 14 fours and six sixes, but it wasn’t so much the number as it was the ruthless decisiveness of strokeplay. The hitting had an inevitability about it not even the frequent rain interruptions could hinder.

The measure of Sehwag’s brilliance may be had from the fact that New Zealand, after winning the toss, did well to keep the contest competitive in the first half, mustering 270 for five in 47 overs, thanks to a 102-run opening stand between Jesse Ryder and Brendon McCullum, and a 61-ball partnership of 95 between wicketkeeper Peter McGlashan and Grant Elliott.

But Sehwag, in Gautam Gambhir’s presence, took India to 201 without loss in 23.1 overs before the rain fell a final time. Duckworth and Lewis were called into play, and it shocked no one that India was so far ahead of the curve that the margin of victory caused onsiderable confusion among officials and journalists.

“My coach and captain gave me full authority to go and play my natural game,” said Sehwag after the event. “So I was not worried about getting out. If you’re worried about getting out, then you’ll never make runs.”

Did he know he had broken Mohammad Azharuddin’s record for the fastest ODI century by an Indian? “Yes, I was aware it was 62 balls,” said Sehwag, adding with typical candour that the six with which he broke the record didn’t come off the middle of the bat. Sehwag also said he felt sorry for New Zealand’s bowlers. “You can’t do anything (as a bowler). Just pray that they will maybe mis-hit and get out.”

Gambhir, lost amidst Sehwag’s brilliance, found his best touch, but did well to desist from trying to match his partner. “He was very keen to get runs in this game,” Sehwag said of his partner. “He was telling me, I have to get at least one fifty or two fifties in this series so he was very keen. It’s good to see Gautam get runs because he was playing run-a-ball. He was not playing slow. He was rotating the strike well and I kept hitting my shots.”

In New Zealand’s innings, Ryder broke the shackles enforced with the new ball, twice hitting Praveen on the up through cover. McCullum, who had made three from 20 balls, chanced his arm. He sauntered down the track to Zaheer and slapped him over cover. He upper-cut the wayward Ishant Sharma, and turned his attention to Praveen, hitting him for three successive boundaries.

Dhoni missed stumping McCullum (on 43) off Yuvraj, but the bowler dismissed Ryder. The swirling top-edge was judged splendidly by Suresh Raina. India pulled things back through Yuvraj and Yusuf Pathan; Ross Taylor contributed, pulling a long-hop to deep backward square-leg.

Ishant returned well in the batting power play, but wicketkeeper McGlashan, who had been dropped on 0 by Dhoni off Ishant, played an innings of cheek and skill. McGlashan and Elliott did more than prevent India’s bowlers from getting at the lower-order; they attacked, McGlashan, with sweeps, reverse-sweeps, and switch-hits (played against the seamers as well), and Elliott, with slightly more orthodox methods, as the Black Caps regained momentum. But they held it all too briefly.

“It was a tough game, it was a good old-fashioned hiding,” said New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori. “No other way to explain it. I thought we needed more than 300 even when it got reduced to a 47-over game. But we were pretty inept with the ball again and we haven’t found an answer to Sehwag. He played exceptionally well. I think we bowled a little bit better than we have but it wasn’t good enough to compete against him. Gambhir played such a good complementary role and turned the strike and allowed him to play. We were not just consistent enough and when you play on such small grounds you have to be inch perfect.”

THE SCORES

Fourth ODI, Hamilton, March 11. India won by 84 runs (D/L method).

New Zealand: J. D. Ryder c Raina b Yuvraj Singh 46; B. B. McCullum lbw b Khan 77; L. R. P. L. Taylor c R. G. Sharma b Pathan 5; M. J. Guptill c sub (K. D. Karthik) b I. Sharma 25; J. D. P. Oram c Dhoni b I. Sharma 1; P. D. McGlashan (not out) 56; G. D. Elliott (not out) 35; Extras (lb-9, w-13, nb-3) 25; Total (for five wkts., 47 overs) 270.

Fall of wickets: 1-102, 2-114, 3-155, 4-156, 5-175.

India bowling: Zaheer Khan 10-0-49-1; Praveen Kumar 7-0-51-0; I. Sharma 8-0-57-2; Yuvraj Singh 9-0-40-1; Y. Pathan 5-0-14-1; Harbhajan Singh 8-0-50-0.

India: (target: 118 runs from 23.3 overs): G. Gambhir (not out) 63; V. Sehwag (not out) 125; Extras (lb-9, w-4) 13; Total ( for no loss; 23.3 overs) 201.

New Zealand bowling: Mills 5-0-29-0; Thompson 4-0-42-0; O’Brien 3-0-37-0; Vettori 5-0-32-0; Oram 4.3-0-43-0; Elliott 2-0-9-0.