Taylor's class act

Ross Taylor, the Kiwi skipper, came up with a masterly 95.-AP

The Indian batting simply collapsed against New Zealand's incisive pace attack. S. Dinakar reports.

The seaming pitch at Dambulla brought the batsmen's technique under scrutiny. With the bowlers, for a change, calling the shots, those at the crease with better feet movement made an impression. Others succumbed.

The Indian batting came apart in a one-sided tournament opener of the Micromax ODI tri-series against New Zealand at the Rangiri Stadium.

The Kiwis recovered from 28 for three to finally end up at 288 and then the Indians were bundled out for 88.

A New Zealand side without Daniel Vettori, Brendon McCullum and Jesse Ryder had romped home with its highest margin ever against India.

“The absence of some key players made us even more keen to succeed. We wanted more respect from the opposition and the media,” said the experienced Scott Styris.

The conditions under the lights demanded technique, application and judicious shot-selection. A rather young Indian batting had few answers.

Batsman after batsman departed playing away from the body. The Kiwi pacemen rightly bowled in the corridor, moved the ball both ways and employed the short-pitched deliveries cleverly.

The precision in the bowling and the juice in the surface meant that the Indians, at least till the 25-over mark, had to play close to their body.

The batsmen should have been decisive whether playing right forward or right back. They should have also pushed and punched for runs and employed the horizontal bat shots to deliveries lacking in length.

Instead, many of the Indian batsmen were caught at the crease — they perished playing loose strokes outside the off-stump. The Kiwi slip cordon was busy.

Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh hung their bat outside off-stump. India capitulated.

In times when there are an increasing number of limited overs games — both ODIs and Twenty20 — on flat tracks, many shortcoming of several hyped-up batsmen are masked. They can flay the bowling on run-filled surfaces, where even the lone slip is often missing.

Indeed, this is an era where terms such as hitting on the rise, striking through the line and bat-speed have become popular. In the Twenty20 games where the bowler is marginalised, these batsmen make their reputations, sign lucrative endorsements.

Then they get exposed when pacemen make the ball dart around. There can be a heavy price to pay for neglecting the basics of a sound defence. Yet, in today's hectic and commercialised cricketing world, who cares? The right methods have gone out of the window.

If India caved in, New Zealand showed resolve and character. Skipper Ross Taylor's wonderful innings of 95 revealed his sure touch, soft hands, and nimble footwork. The talented shot-maker displayed a positive mind-set in a crisis situation. Earlier in the day, he had won a crucial toss.

After Ashish Nehra and Praveen Kumar — both impressed with the new and old ball — struck early India missed a precious opportunity. Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni fluffed a stumping when left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha had Styris (on 18) stranded with a delivery that turned and bounced.

Styris, who joined forces with Taylor in a crucial partnership, made an aggressive 89 of cuts, drives and lofted strokes. He is an old campaigner, can cope with different situations.

It was intriguing why India opted to field two left-arm spinners in Ojha and Ravindra Jadeja. The side failed to apply pressure from both the ends in the middle overs. That paceman Abhimanyu Mithun left the arena due to a heat-stroke after sending down just four overs, made India's plight worse.

Then the Kiwi pacemen assumed centrestage. In the role of a spearhead following the retirement of Shane Bond, Darryl Tuffey bowled a telling line around the off-stump and used his height and high-arm action to get bounce. The Indians struggled to pick his two-way movement. And left-arm paceman Andy McKay was sharp.

Indian captain Dhoni later spoke about ‘spongy bounce' in the surface but admitted India could have applied itself better.

The Kiwis gained a bonus point against India but met a far tougher opposition in the host. New Zealand was rocked early by the Sri Lankan pacemen with the fiery Lasith Malinga and the canny Angelo Mathews making inroads.

Debutant B.J. Watling came up with a battling half-century and there was some spirited resistance from Nathan McCullum but the Kiwis ended up eight short of the 200 run-mark. In these conditions, though, this was a competitive target.

Sri Lanka lost Tillakaratne Dilshan early but the left-handed Upul Tharanga, 70, and skipper Sangakkara, 48, put the host on the path to victory.

Tharanga relied on hand-eye coordination and bat-speed. Sangakkara's use of feet, whether going right back or launching into his front foot, was exemplary. Technically, Sangakkara's innings was pleasing.

The Kiwis fought back with skiddy paceman Kyle Mills in the thick of things but the composed Thilan Samaraweera (36 not out) took Sri Lanka home by three wickets.

However, the Kiwi strikes towards the end meant Sri Lanka missed out on the bonus point by five deliveries. When the countdown for the final begins, this single point might prove crucial.

The Scores

New Zealand 192 in 48.1 overs (B. J. Watling 55, N. L. McCullum 36, S. L. Malinga three for 35, A. D. Mathews three for 36) lost to Sri Lanka 195 for seven in 40.5 overs (W. U. Tharanga 70, K. C. Sangakkara 48, T. T. Samaraweera 36 not out, K. D. Mills four for 41).

New Zealand 288 in 48.5 overs (R. Taylor 95, S. Styris 89, Praveen Kumar three for 43, A. Nehra four for 47) beat India 88 in 29.3 overs (D. R. Tuffey three for 34).