Arjun Raja is a NRIOL featured sports columnist. To read about Arjun Raja, please Know more.
Sometimes it is good to struggle in life to really enjoy the best things it has to offer. That theory was proved in the first One-day match in the series of five between New Zealand and India at Rajkot on Nov 5th.
The Kiwis were up against it in the test series with the wickets turning and jumping from Day One. Therefore when they were suddenly confronted with an absolute beauty of a wicket for the one-day version of the game, they batted with such gay abandon and freedom that the Indian bowlers who only till a couple of days ago were the hunters, now found themselves transformed into the hunted. And the Kiwis did a fantastic hunting job.
Spearman smashed a brilliant half century to begin the fireworks- as if to join millions of Indians celebrating Diwali. Roger Twose replaced him, and he continued to pound the Indian bowling. I forget when the last time a match was played where India conceded 203 runs in the first 25 overs.
While Spearman and Twose were brutal and batted as if in a trance, Astle played the innings of the day. He battled in the heat and kept one end going, which meant the other strokemakers could bat freely around him- a point not picked up by India's first three batsmen during the run chase.
None of the bowlers was spared. All of them were smashed around the smallish ground, with Srinath who went for 52 runs in 10 overs, being the most economical! It must be said that the wicket was a batting paradise but I still feel our bowlers must ... work harder at bowling tightly at the end. Yorkers and slower ones are key during the slog but our bowlers gave too many "hit me" balls and international batsmen are very unforgiving.
Astle completed his hundred and was dismissed for 120 of 136 balls with 12 fours and 2 sixes. After the 25th over, the runrate slowed down, mainly due to a softer ball. Still New Zealand scored another 146 runs in the last 25. The late order batsmen batted with clinical efficiency and the final total of 349 in 50 overs looked about 20-30 runs too many, even on such a superb pitch.
India, notoriously poor chasers, needed a big hundred from one of the three batting stars, Sachin, Saurav or Dravid. But all of them got a good start and threw it away. That was where the game was lost. The opening partnership was 87 in 11 overs, which was a perfect platform, but things went horribly wrong from there.
Sachin was out lofting a ball from debutante Styris straight to the fielder at deep mid-on, an unnecessary shot since his presence at the wicket is enough to demoralise the Kiwis. He made only 32. Immediately after that Saurav hit a short and wide ball straight to point - 90-2 in 12.2 overs and the game swung New Zealand's way.
ensible batting by Rahul, Jadeja and Robin meant the target was only 110 in 13 overs with 7 wickets left when the final twist to the tale happened.
Robin holed out at deep square leg, followed by three quick wickets in the form of Bharadwaj, Chopra(first ball) and Prasad. All of them perished to pathetic cricket, trying to become heroes when all that was needed was for them to provide adequate support to Jadeja by keeping the scorecard moving in singles, and if a bad ball came along, punishing it for four or six.
Those four wickets killed the interest in the game; the only remaining interest was whether Jadeja would get to a hundred. That was not to be as he was also caught at deep long-off by Horne for 95.
Srinath, Kumble and Prasad played with a sense of purpose and took the score past 300 but it was always a losing battle and finally India were all out for 306 to lose by 43 runs.
Considering we lost too many wickets in quick succession and batted only 47 overs, I am sure a responsible performance by Bharadwaj or Chopra could have seen us through.
The wicket and outfield was so batsman friendly that any batsman worth his salt could have turned the match on its head. It was not to be and India's record as poor chasers continues.
New Zealand: 349 for 9 in 50 overs
Astle 120, Spearman 68, Twose 56.
Prasad 3 for 75.
India: 306 all out in 47 overs
Jadeja 95, Saurav 41.
Astle 3 for 40 and Styris 3 for 62
Man of the Match - Nathan Astle. Read more
- Arjun Raja in Dubai, UAENovember 6, 1999
The views of this column are the author's own, and do not necessarily represent the views of NRI Online.For a listing of past columns by Arjun Raja, please Know more.