The conquerors capitulate

Published : Mar 21, 2009 00:00 IST

The Indians, having already won the series, failed to apply themselves and New Zealand posted a consolation victory. S. Ram Mahesh reports.

The fifth game in Auckland was supposed to be a dead rubber, but it seemed no one told the city’s fans that. 21,285 turned up, of which a considerable percentage was Indian, and shouted themselves hoarse — it was the sort of crowd that didn’t discriminate between inside edges and hooked sixes, cheering both events with similar gusto. It was ironic that in this most Indian of settings, the touring side faltered. Perhaps the confidence of a series won settled too firmly, perhaps it was just one of those things, but India collapsed for 149. This despite retaining the same eleven that had won the fourth ODI.

After M.S. Dhoni erroneously chose to bat in conditions that helped seam-and-swing bowling, only Virender Sehwag and Rohit Sharma made it past 39. The collapse wasn’t triggered by a hostile spell under low-lying clouds into a rain-freshened surface; there’s no bowler in New Zealand who answers to those specifications, not since Shane Bond joined the ICL. But New Zealand don’t lack medium-pacers with control (actually they did through the first four games, but why destroy a convenient generalisation?), and Jacob Oram and Jesse Ryder did just enough with the ball to share five wickets.

India’s batsmen were guilty of not applying their powers to the task at hand in a manner that befits a champion side. Sehwag faced only 27 balls in 11.5 overs — his downfall was as much down to Oram’s quick-thinking in delivery stride to shorten length as his partners not turning the strike over. In those 27 balls, Sehwag made 40 and threatened to put the game beyond New Zealand. Oram also scalped Raina before Ryder went through Yuvraj Singh, M.S. Dhoni, and Yusuf Pathan.

Dhoni and Yusuf edged honest, accurate off-cutters on to their stumps, while Yuvraj Singh nicked one to the keeper. There wasn’t much resistance from the lower-order, and what little there was didn’t survive a fit of poor running that claimed Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan. Rohit remained unbeaten, but one felt he could have done more.

“Most of the games whether we’ve gone well or not has depended on the bowlers,” said New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori. “The wicket had a little more in it than the previous ones but you still have to bowl well. You saw that a guy like Sehwag can still be explosive, like he was in previous games, even on a deck like that. I’m really pleased for the guys. Some guys who haven’t performed in the series stepped up. Jacob Oram was outstanding and Jesse Ryder came through with the ball.”

Jesse Ryder and Martin Guptill, both young men of tremendous potential, batted splendidly in the chase. Ryder was particularly severe on Ishant. Ishant attempted to engage Ryder in conversation — rather unnecessarily — and was hooked for six for his efforts. The ferocity of the pulling and the hooking had to be seen to be believed. Ryder mightn’t look threatening — his troubled past confers on him an air of vulnerability — but he has tremendous hand-speed, which allied to a quick eye and easy power make him a dangerous batsman. He also has a fine range of strokes, and as he showed when caressing a ball through, nice touch. Ryder’s 63 set up the chase, and when he fell, chopping Ishant onto his stumps, Guptill took over.

Guptill is a different sort of batsman. His is a more upright method, involving a use of the wrist normally seen in Asian batsmen. He’s as fearless in his strokeplay as Ryder, and although not as powerful, hits almost as clean a ball. Together they kept India out of the contest — the touring side had threatened to fight back early under lights, but wilted under the attack.

Praveen Kumar had his moments, but he strayed on Ryder’s pads. Zaheer’s performance was better than his figures suggest. Ishant, who had shown encouraging signs in the fourth game, came off second best against Ryder — not something the fast-bowler is accustomed to, having mastered men of the calibre of Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey. He was unfortunate in that Yuvraj Singh put down a sitter at point, but Ryder had done much of his damage by then.

Ryder, asked after the match if his approach was similar to Sehwag’s, said, “I’d love to say that but I think he’s a bit more destructive than I am. I have just got back into form and am trying to under-hit the ball most of the time, spend a bit of time in the middle, and it’s working for me.”


Fifth ODI, Auckland, March 14. New Zealand won by eight wickets.

India: (43 overs maximum): G. Gambhir c McGlashan b Mills 5; V. Sehwag c McCullum b Oram 40; S. K. Raina c Styris b Oram 8; R. G. Sharma (not out) 43; Yuvraj Singh c McGlashan b Ryder 11; M. S. Dhoni b Ryder 9; Y. K. Pathan b Ryder 0; Harbhajan Singh (run out) 1; Zaheer Khan (run out) 5; Praveen Kumar c McGlashan b O’Brien 6; I. Sharma c Taylor b O’Brien 3; Extras (lb 9, w 9) 18; Total ( in 36.3 overs) 149.

Fall of wickets: 1-30, 2-65, 3-69, 4-88, 5-110, 6-111, 7-116, 8-131, 9-143.

New Zealand bowling: Mills 7-0-27-1; O’Brien 7.3-0-43-2; Oram 9-0-22-2; Ryder 9-0-29-3; Vettori 4-0-19-0.

New Zealand: J. D. Ryder b I. Sharma 63; B. B. McCullum b Kumar 2; M. J. Guptill (not out) 57; R. Taylor (not out) 28; Extra (w 1) 1; Total (for two wkts. in 23.2 overs) 151.

Fall of wickets: 1-9, 2-93.

India bowling: Kumar 4-0-22-1; Khan 8-1-51-0; I. Sharma 7.2-1-63-1; Harbhajan Singh 4-0-15-0.

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