Indian batting flattered to deceive in the opening match of the Super Eights Round against the Black Caps at Johannesburg. Daniel Vettori did the turnaround for the Kiwis with a match winning spell of 4 for 20 that choked the Indian chase in pursuit of a near 200-run target. India got off to a rocking start but lost their way completely towards the end because of having a long tail. New Zealand on the other hand could come out of a tough position with the bat but were powered to a formidable total because of their batting depth.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni won the toss and put New Zealand in at Johannesburg. RP Singh and Dinesh Karthik combined to give India the opening break in the second over. Lou Vincent was brilliantly caught by a forward diving Dinesh Karthik at mid wicket with RP Singh getting a quick short pitch delivery. The joy of taking the opening wicket was short lived with Brendon McCullum taking Sreesanth for three boundaries in the next over playing some sweetly timed drives on the rise. McCullum went onto pick another four boundaries from RP Singh in the coming overs to give the impetus to the NZ innings. Peter Fulton joined the party too smacking Agarkar out of mid wicket for a six. It was Harbhajan Singh who had applied brakes in his very first over with Fulton choosing the wrong length to sweep. Fulton made 23 from 21 in the 58-run stand with McCullum. Harbhajan took another wicket in his next over and this time it was the big one of McCullum, who holed out to long on. McCullum got 45 from 31 with 9 fours. From 86 for 3, New Zealand found themselves shaken up at 91 for 5 in the 13th over with Ross Taylor and Scott Styris not contributing anything serious.
India was in great joy having put the brakes on the Kiwis but the job was only half done with the likes of Oram, McMillan and Vettori still to contribute. Oram and McMillan made the India pay with their big hitting and all of a sudden India lost its initiative. The mistake that Dhoni did was to give Yuvraj a third over after the part timer had bowled two good overs which were decent enough. But Yuve’s third over reminisced of his final over to Dimitri Mascarenhas which was taken for 5 sixes. Oram’s two sixes, McMillan’s six and a four got 25 from the 16th over and New Zealand were now set to get a big total. More trouble was to follow and it was the 18th over from Sreesanth that saw three sixes fly out of the ground. Agarkar kept the momentum going for the opposition by leaking 21 runs in his penultimate over. RP Singh with a good last over which went for five runs could restrict Kiwis below 200. As many as four wickets fell in the final over with three of them being run outs. McMillan got 44 from 35 with a boundary and four sixes and Oram got 35 from 20 with 2 fours and three sixes. Harbhajan Singh was the best bowler for India, bowling lot of yorker length deliveries and clever changes of pace that saw him take 2 for 24 in his 4 overs.
When India’s chase of a tall score began, all the onus was on Viru to get them to a flier and for Yuvraj, Dhoni to do the finishing act. Virender Sehwag cracked on all cylinders and most surprising was Gautam Gambhir coming good against the quality attack of Bond and Gillespie. Sehwag started the fireworks taking on Mark Gillespie for two fours and a six in his first over. Gambhir then at the other end did better than Sehwag smashing Shane Bond for a six followed up with three fours. The six came after Gambhir had given the charge to Shane Bond as if he was a slow bowler. Daniel Vettori took a gamble with nothing going right, he brought on offie Jeetan Patel in the 5th over. But Sehwag made sure that India made most out of the spinner by collecting three fours and a six. Sehwag however couldn’t get a big score that could have sealed the game and his dismissal came through a low full toss that was played at short mid wicket off Jacob Oram’s bowling in the 6th over. Sehwag made 40 in 17 balls with 6 fours and two sixes.
India suffered a big blow when it lost the inform Robin Uthappa trough a soft dismissal in Daniel Vettori’s first over for a two ball-duck. Vettori then kept the Indians under check with his clever change in pace and trajectory. Gambhir and new man Dhoni did strike their shots well but with the fielding restrictions no longer in place, the boundaries were hard to find. It was lull before storm as far as Gambhir was concerned as he stepped down the track to lift Vettori for a six in the 11th over only to be caught off his glove by the keeper two balls later to the same bowler. Gambhir departed after getting to 51 from just 33 with the help of 5 fours and two sixes. A rank bad shot off Jeetan Patel saw Yuvraj Singh throw away his wicket with still plenty to get. Now India were in real danger with just Dhoni and Karthik, the last two specialist batsmen and Irfan Pathan, the all rounder left who could get the runs.
Things started to fall in place through Dhoni and Karthik before a mix-up saw Dhoni run out at the non-striker’s end. Dhoni departed after making 24 from 20 without a single six leaving India at 128 for 5 in the 14th. When Jeetan Patel was brought in for another spell, Irfan Pathan took him on for a couple of boundaries leaving the equation to 46 from 24. But in the 17th over, Vettori cleaned up the offstump of Pathan with an arm ball and by the end of his over and his spell, he added up the wicket of Dinesh Karthik. Fulton had dropped a simple catch at long on to drop Karthik and also allowing a boundary but in the next ball itself, Karthik got out unable to clear the square leg fence. It was match over for the Indians at this stage with 40 to win from the last three overs. India managed to reduce the margin of defeat to 10 runs thanks to Sreesanth’s unbeaten 19 in 10. The Man of the Match had to go for the New Zealand Skipper’s all round show – 15 from 5 balls and 4 for 20 in 4 overs along with two catches and a run out.