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HAMILTON: New Zealand wrenched the ODI No.1 ranking out of India’s hands and returned it to Australia as they inflicted a second consecutive defeat on MS Dhoni’s band of superstars in a rain-curtailed fixture at Seddon Park, on Wednesday. Under constantly overcast skies, in a game that saw a couple of weather interruptions, the Kiwis set India a massive 297-run target in 42 overs, and restricted the visitors to 277 in 41.3 overs, eventually winning by 15 in accordance with the complicated Duckworth-Lewis equation.
The stars on the day were young Kane Williamson (77), Ross Taylor (57) and the current sensation Corey Anderson, who smashed a 17-ball 44 to take his side to an imposing 271, which was later reset as per D-L norms. India were in the chase for the most part, although the stiff target meant that the asking rate too maintained a steady climb throughout. They needed 61 in the last five overs with MS Dhoni, having brought up his 52nd ODI fifty with a towering six off Tim Southee, and his trusty CSK aide, Ravindra Jadeja, in the middle. But Dhoni and Jadeja fell in the same over - the 40th, bowled by Anderson - to spell the end of the pursuit.
India’s chase began in the dispiriting fashion that has now become customary every time Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma come out to open the innings. The pair mustered 22 in 7.4 overs before both were taken out by Tim Southee. It was Virat Kohli again around whom the innings regained its momentum. The Delhi blaster, who had plundered a classy century in the previous ODI – his first in a losing cause – contributed a 65-ball 78, displaying his range of cuts and pulls and adding 90 with Ajinkya Rahane (36).
Rahane was caught behind trying to pull the wicket-taking specialist Mitchell Mc Clenaghan. Kohli was nigh untouchable before he tried to hit Southee out of the park, but was taken at the long-on boundary. Suresh Raina then had his best overseas outing in recent memory, as he scored 35 with six sweet boundaries, and partnered his captain for 62 in just 39 deliveries, before holing out to Kyle Mills. Dhoni's knock had all the makings of being a match-winner, but even he couldn't sustain his frenetic pace for long. The rest was a formality. Rain descended yet again and another recourse to the calculators left the Kiwis winners by 15 runs, and in possession of a 2-0 lead in the five-ODI series.
DHONI FIELDS THE SAME TEAM
New Zealand had earlier smashed 101 runs in their last 8.4 overs as Anderson made mincemeat of India’s docile attack. This was after Dhoni had chosen to field for the second time in a row, and persisted with perennial under-performers Ishant Sharma and Raina in the eleven. Jesse Ryder looked in supreme touch as he cut and pulled Mohammad Shami for fours, but a cheeky attempted upper-cut cost him – the slowness of the pitch causing the burly, off-balance opener to under-edge through to Dhoni. The other opener, Martin Guptil, made 44 in 65 balls before the first break, after which he played a cross between a sweep and a pull against Raina, and top-edged to Shami at short fine-leg.
Williamson was fluid from the start. He swiveled and pulled Shami, gained successive, stylishly late backfoot fours off Jadeja, and thumped Raina over deep mid-wicket for six. His half-century took just 52 balls. New Zealand had a lucky break when Taylor was not given out on a close stumping call off the bowling of Jadeja. Williamson and Taylor had added 73 in 11.4 overs when the skies opened up again and off went the players, this time for about 90 minutes, with New Zealand on 170/2 in 33.2 overs. It was on resumption that all hell broke lose.
REDUCED OVERS AND A PROLIFIC POWERPLAY
The match was reduced to 42-overs a side. Jadeja had Williamson stumped on the first ball of the Batting Powerplay, allowing Anderson to swagger in. The big-hitting all-rounder was off the mark with a savage pull to midwicket, and then pummeled Shami for six over the straight boundary. Taylor, meanwhile, struck three successive fours off Bhuvneshwar to reach his fifty in 49 balls.
Ishant’s reintroduction allowed Anderson to swing his arms even more freely: two more sixes materialized, the first over long-on (caught one-handed by a fan on the park – for a princely reward of $100,00), the second an equal hit over long-off. Another blow would have made Anderson, 44 off 16 then, the joint holder – with Sri Lanka’s Sanath Jayasuriya – of the fastest ODI fifty record. He went for it, but was caught by a backpedalling Dhawan at long-on, having mistimed Ishant’s slower ball. It didn't matter. New Zealand were already halfway to dislodging India from the top ODI perch.
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